This article was originally published in the Jerusalem Post on Friday October 4, 1996
The Arazim Valley at Jerusalem's western entrance came alive yesterday with over 2,000 hikers wending their way among the greenery to protest plans for large-scale development in the area.
The walkers, to the lilting tones of musicians, set out from Mevasseret Zion, Lifta, Ramot and Motza to assemble in the valley for the happening, organized by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the Arazim Residents Action Council.
There are plans for massive construction, roadwork and an electric high-tension network in the valley, which con-servation groups want recognized as a national park and official green belt to stop urban sprawl. SPNI Jerusalem branch member Avraham Shaked described the valley as the only of its type in the area and said the planned construction would completely destroy its special nature. From ancient times until today, the accepted approach to local planning has precluded building in Jerusalem's valleys, Shaked said.
"The concept has been to keep the valleys green while building on the ridges to preserve the beauty of Jerusalem as a city of hills," Shaked said.
He blamed narrow-minded real estate and financial considerations for the change in approach. The fight to pre-serve the Arazim Valley is one of the few issues on which current Environment Minister Raphael Eitan (Tsomet) and his predecessor, Meretz leader Yossi Sarid, agree.
Holding a fig picked from a tree in the area, Sarid said, "For this tree we won't be silent. The idea of building here is ludicrous. Whoever wants to build here has no love for Jerusalem."
In a direct challenge to Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, an active supporter of the development, Sarid said, "There is talk of dividing Jerusalem now, don't let the builders divide it."
Moledet leader Rehavam Ze'evi, recalling his childhood spent in the valley, said, "This valley belongs to all Israe-lis; everyone wants a green entrance to Jerusalem."
Naomi Tsur, coordinator of the SPNI's Jerusalem office, said the occasion was important for people's general awareness of the environment in Israel.
As dusk fell, Irit Maayan closed the event with a rendition of a song composed by Haim Tsur, "Emek Ha'arazim."
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