Jerusalem Parks - Gan for Dog Owners

Copyright 2006 by Morris Rosenthal - - contact info

The Serial Tourist's Guide to Living in Jerusalem

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The largest park in Jerusalem is Gan Sacher, which stretches out under the Kinnesset and Supreme Court. I've seen three soccer games going at once on the main green, and and it can get mobbed with people on holidays and school field days. Up in the corner of Gan Sacher, directly below the Supreme Court, is a fenced in area for doggy socials. Sometimes I go up there in the evenings just to watch all the dogs playing with each other, as the owners stand around trying to look like they aren't competing at something. Directly below the dog playground is a hockey rink, where it's common to see middle-age Russians roller blading around with hockey sticks and pining for Siberia. If you walk South down Gan Sacher you'll get to the valley of the Monastery of the Cross, and if you turn right (West) at the end of that green belt, you can continue walking almost all the way to Malka in a more or less park like strip.You can turn right on Zalman Shneuir and enter the Botanical Gardens of the Hebrew University, if you like that much variety. The Botanical gardens stretch all the way back up to Givat Ram.
One of the more interesting parks in Jerusalem isn't a park at all. It's a Wadi down to the right of HaRav Hertzog, just before you get to the Jerusalem mall, which has come to be known as the Valley of the Deer. If you have decent eyes (because I don't shoot telephoto) you'll see a few of the deer in the shot to the right. The story is that this herd got cut off from the Jerusalem Forest by the construction of Menachim Begin Highway about back 15 years ago, and have been living in the valley ever since. I suppose they don't have any natural predators down there, and by this point, it wouldn't surprise me if you could walk right up to one and give it a sock on the jaw. However, you'd expect inbreeding to eventually take a toll, since I don't see a lot of bucks strolling around Jerusalem looking for a date. Since the area isn't an official park, and since Jerusalem has abandoned their latest expansion plan, I suspect this valley will be developed in the near future, and the deer will get moved back to the forest.
I've always intended to do a page about trip-and-fall hazards in Jerusalem, maybe I should combine it with attractive nuisances, since I seem to spend a lot of time trespassing about with my camera. The walkway to the left runs through Gan HaAzmaut (Independence Park) which is right below the Sheraton in the center of town, across from the American Consulate. I tried to get the shadows right to show the intentional crevices in the walkway that allow water to flow through to the canal on the left, if the water is ever actually turned on. The park is full of signs that warn the reader (in Hebrew) "Don't drink the water," which may be why it's always turned off. The park may be the second largest in Jerusalem, and walking through it late at night is a great shortcut from downtown back to Rechavia or the German Colony, but you can also break an ankle if you don't know the tricks. There are some manmade caves in the park which you can get into (because the fences are breached) and I'll include some pictures in a future page about Jerusalem archeology. Some of the caves are lived in on occasion by homeless people, as witnessed by the smells.
In addition to the big parks in the center of town, there are a few decent sized recreational parks (places you can have large groups for a picnic) further out. One of the is Garden Park (Park Ganim) between Ir Gannin and Kiryat Yovel, where there's some really large climbing equipment for kids and you frequently see parties. Unfortunately for the neighbors, the parties sometimes extend into the late hours of the night, or early hours of the morning. The neighbors have had their revenge by slowly incorporating outlying bits of the park into their back yards! For anybody considering buying a home in Israel, it always pays to keep in mind that just because the fence of the house you're looking at encompasses some land doesn't mean it's actually part of the property. Another nice park with equipment, though not very large, in Gan Nechamia, across the Wadi from Givat Ram in what I guess is Beit Hakerem. There are also dozens, if not hundreds of pocket parks, essentially undeveloped building lots that the city took over or received in donation. These are usually populated by a few benches, maybe a bit of equipment, and some sort of donor's plaque.
But my favorite thing about Jerusalem parks is the variety of signs telling you to clean up after your dog. I'm going with the cutesy picture ones here, some are rather droll, multi-paragraph quotations of the laws pertaining to doggy poop, including the relevant dates and acts of Parliament. Some of the sign posts are equipped with a bag dispenser and a receptacle for used bags, but not owning a dog, I haven't paid a lot of attention to whether or not they are full, or whether they get emptied, for that matter. The sign to the right read, "A good dog doesn't make a mess. There's no choice. You have to bend over and gather it in a nylon bag and put it in the nearby trash." The sign below says, "Be human. Clean up after him." There are also some pretty stern warning signs in the parks about what you can and can't do (everybody seems to ignore these) and reminding people that Israel has semi-official siesta hours between 14:00 and 16:00 (2:00 PM to 4:00 PM) during which you can make noise. Oddly, open campfires in Israeli parks appears to be entirely acceptable, and if you get some guitars going rather than a radio, all the better.

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