Seasoned visitors and Jerusalemites will have heard of Gazelle Valley – an open area of natural habitat in urban Jerusalem. Gazelle Valley is precisely defined as it is bordered by the neighborhood of Givat Mordechai, the Begin Highway & Herzog (another major road).
According to the sources, the Gazelle Valley is named after 55 or so gazelles (Gazella gazella) that live in the area, surrounded by man-made urban structures and development. It became the first urban wildlife reserve, not only in Jerusalem, but in the entire Israel as well.
A 20-year battle to preserve a piece of the urban wildlife
There is an interesting story about this piece of wildlife paradise amidst the city setting. Once upon a time, real estate developers were seeking permit to build structures in the area. But local residents, environmental advocacy groups, and social justice activists fought to keep the land in its natural surroundings. After a lengthy, 20-year court battle, the Jerusalem Municipality began plans to turn the area into a nature reserve and public park. In 2013, the plans turned into action when work began at the park
When the Gazelle Valley officially opened in March 2015, thousands of Israelis and tourists flocked to the park on Passover to have a breath of fresh air, enjoy nature, and of course, witness those graceful gazelles inhabiting the area.
One could imagine how lucky Jerusalmites are! The natural beauty and wonder of wildlife are just a few walks or a short ride away. It is a very accessible wildlife area, where residents as well as tourists see and explore a variety of wildlife in its natural state and behavior.
Being a nature reserve, the Gazelle Valley is also the home of endangered species of animals (other than gazelles) as well as plants.
Are there really gazelles in the Gazelle Valley?
The problem is that almost nobody has actually seen a gazelle here – urban legends abound and occasionally one meets somebody who claims to have seen the gazelles – but for the most part – they are just an urban legend. I have explored the area several times and never met one of the gazelles. Today that changed….
I am now one of the special ones – I saw four gazelles and spring is definitely here – they were locking horns and charging.
It was amazing to watch! It was definitely more interesting than the normal view from the bus stop. Of course, I hardly ever leave home without a camera – but today was one of those days – so like most of the best memories it is just in my memory and not on my hard disk. I will return and try my luck (or is that look) again – watch this space!
Gazelle Valley is highly recommended (when you see the gazelles. Easiest point of access is from Pat Junction Jerusalem.
Check out the Gazelle Valley website (in both Hebrew and English).