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Israel Winging the Old City Walls

Often, the need to preserve a city's characteristics conflicts with the need to preserve its ecology.

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David Citadel

Often, the need to preserve a city's characteristics conflicts with the need to preserve its ecology. Fortunately, there will always be those whose job it is to find the Golden Mean.


In a survey on the condition of Jerusalem's Old City walls, a 30-nest colony of swifts was found. This is not surprising, since the man-made infrastructures of Jerusalem are amongst the most ancient in the world, and over the eons, certain plants and wildlife are to be found here, almost exclusively. These include rodents, lizards and birds, such as pigeons, jackdaws kestrels, sparrows and the aforementioned swifts. These latter are remarkable in their 10-month flight, during which they eat, mate and sleep in the air, coming to rest on atrophied legs for only 2 months in a year. In Jerusalem, the Western Wall has been serving them in place of cliffs, upon which they nest in the wild.


Over the years, the 16th century wall has been deteriorating, due - amongst other factors - to animal nesting habits and plant promulgation. Plants, as their roots spread, dislodge stones; and the chemical constituency of bird droppings, another example, serves as a corrosive.


A NIS 15 million, 5-year general plan has recently been endorsed by the Jerusalem Municipality and the Jerusalem Development Authority to restore the Old City walls and build parks around them. This includes a survey and guidelines for the operation, commissioned from and formulated by researchers from the Society for the Protection of Nature and the Antiquities Authority.


Some of the flora and fauna we found is certainly not critical, but it does contribute towards a city's unique character", says the ISPN's Amir Balaban. Still, the course of action is necessary. “According to UN recommendations, a city is responsible not only for its demographic borders but its blue line - its ecological borders - as well. It must maintain a positive balance, perhaps even enhancing it. The city stewards are therefore charged with up-keeping a city's natural infrastructure.”


The researchers believe that they will be able to find substitutes - such as alternative sites at the base of the walls for most of the plants, lizards and rodents. "We are proposing three forms of solution", says Balaban, "locations that must and may be preserved, such as nests, systems that may be preserved nearby - mitigation, and systems that will need to be transplanted".


Meanwhile, the greens will take pride of place throughout the process, providing input and guidance from the moment the first scaffold is laid. 

Jerusalem Development Authority
Tel. +972-2-6297628

Jerusalem Bird Observatory - JBO
Tel. +972-52-3869488


The Article is courtesy of the Jerusalem Tourism Authority 


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