The area of a city that is devoted to parks, gardens, and inviting spaces where people can sit is an indicator of the extent of municipal investment in the quality of life of the residents of the city. For the most part, residents prefer to live close to green areas where they can walk around, sit down, and enjoy recreational activities with their families and friends. In this column I will review the size (area) of the green space (that the municipality actively maintains) in relation to the total number of residents.

First of all, relative to the cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa, Jerusalem lags far behind. According to the data from the Jerusalem Municipality, there are 2,820 dunams (1 dunam = 1/4 acre) of green space for which it is responsible (not including passageways and green areas that form barriers between lanes of a road), which constitute 3.84 square meters per resident. In Tel Aviv there are 2,600 dunams of green space, which constitute 6.21 square meters per resident, and in Haifa the situation in this respect is the best of all, with 2,390 dunams, which constitute 8.76 square meters of green space per resident (the data for Tel Aviv and Haifa was culled from the cities’ yearbooks).

When examining the data for Jerusalem at the neighborhood level, it is immediately apparent that there are barely any green spaces in the Arab neighborhoods. The Wadi Al-Joz and Sheikh Jarrah neighborhoods have the largest amount of green space per resident among the Arab neighborhoods – 2.09 square meters per resident – while in the neighborhoods of Kafr ‘Aqb, Beit Hanina, Sur Baher and Um Tuba there are no parks, pedestrian walkways, gardens, inviting areas to sit, or decorative nooks at all, that are maintained by the municipality.

In general, one can see the difference between the older neighborhoods in Jerusalem, which are urban and more crowded, so that there is less public area available for parks, and the new neighborhoods beyond the center of the city where the area of green space per resident is greater. Thus, in the older neighborhoods, the green space is somewhere between 0.2 and 1.1 square meters per resident, as opposed to in the newer neighborhoods, where it is between 5.6 and 7.8 square meters per resident. One example is the Bayit Vegan neighborhood (0.49 square meters per resident). This neighborhood is located outside the city center, and was established in the 1930s on private land, as a “garden city.” Every plot contained a house and a private garden, and none of the land was allocated for public parks. Over the years, the original houses were torn down and larger buildings were constructed in their place. However, it was not possible to allocate land for public green spaces, since the plots were privately owned.

Until the early 1990s, there was no adherence to any kind of policy that would ensure allocation of a satisfactory ratio of green space to each resident. In neighborhoods where the contractors’ assessment was that there wasn’t much demand for green space, such as in the Har Nof neighborhood (1.77 square meters per resident), only small areas were allocated for public green space. Only in the neighborhoods that were built in the 1990s did the planners ensure that the amount of green space per resident would be at least 5 square meters. 

Translation: Gilah Kahn