A Wonderful Park for Birds and People in Tel-Aviv

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

The park is in the middle of the metropolitan of Tel Aviv and is expected to attract many visitors.

The ornithological center in Yarkon Park’s Bird’s Head Forest has opened its gates to visitors, and, on June 25th, Friends of JNF Australia John and Debbie Schaffer of Perth were two of its first guests. The Schaffers, together with their friends Geoff and Valmae Morris, were among the donors whose support made the establishment of the park possible.


“Creating a site that will endure for many years and attract both birds and people is a wonderful thing,” said John Schaffer. “When, many years ago, we undertook to support this project, we never imagined it would turn into such a beautiful place,” added his wife Debbie, as she contemplated the magnificent sights of the park.

The ornithological center comprises a variety of habitats designed to attract a range of different bird species. It includes a six-dunam artificial lake, four dunam (approximately one acre) of constructed wetlands, a winter pond and water-filled trenches that each flow at a different rate.

“The park displays the vegetation characteristic of the area and so recreates naturally occurring local environments,” explained Yarkon Park ecologist Liav Shalem. “Yarkon Park has a number of additional ponds, but all of them were designed to meet the needs of the visitors – unlike this lake, which was created expressly with the birds’ requirements in mind.”

Part of the park is closed to visitors, to enable the birds to enjoy a quiet, safe environment. The pond has been filled with local varieties of fish, including some that are in danger of extinction, and the aquatic vegetation planted at the site is already growing quite tall. A number of different varieties of fruit tree have also been planted, to provide a food source for the birds.

Liav Shalem scrutinized the waters and expressed satisfaction at the signs of life they were beginning to display, with insects, fish and birds all in evidence. He explained that when migratory birds catch sight of the glint of water they fly down to see if the site can provide a suitable habitat. “By autumn the park should be full of birds,” he said.

“Hides” that allow visitors to observe the birds without disturbing them have been constructed at the site. Most provide views of bird activity above the surface of the water, but one, constructed thanks to donations from the Schaffer and Morris families, is situated directly at the level of the water’s surface.

As the Schaffers watched the birds they were delighted to observe a family of local ducks at close hand. The female became the proud mother of two ducklings about two months ago, and she now cares for them devotedly. One little duckling lost his way in the thickets of vegetation, but fortunately his mother was on hand to extricate him and shepherd him back to his brother. 

This park, which is situated slap in the middle of the metropolitan hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv, is expected to attract a great many groups of schoolchildren, nature-lovers, bird-watching enthusiasts and other visitors. Group instruction will take place in open-air classrooms situated around the lake.

KKL Australia has been a warm-hearted partner of ours for many years now, and it has supported numerous educational, ecological and water-related projects all over Israel,” said KKL-JNF Australian Desk Project Coordinator Esti Goldwasser.

Bird’s Head Park is a beautiful and unique site, but it is by no means the only project established with the support of the Schaffer and Morris families. The Merhav Am community that flourishes in the heart of the desert has likewise benefited from their generosity: a playground has been established for the local children, the community center is surrounded by attractive greenery and the kindergarten area is to be enclosed in gardens. That is how JNF in Western Australia has helped to transform the desert into a beautiful and inviting green environment with the potential to attract new residents to the area.

Kibbutz Nir Am on the Gaza border enjoys an outdoor classroom for environmental studies whose well-tended compound includes seating areas and a garden of flourishing greenery and flowers. This is where the various groups that come to visit the nearby Water Museum, enjoy the local scenery and look over the border meet up to listen to their guides’ description of the area.

Nir Am lies only about one kilometer distant from the border. From the open-air classroom it is easy to see how very close these Israeli communities are to the Gaza Strip and to begin to understand something of the complexity of life in this area. In a kibbutz field just a few dozen meters distant from the compound a terrorist-built tunnel was discovered by a farmer while he was out reaping.

JNF Australia is involved in a great many projects in the Gaza Periphery communities. The appreciation center established near the open-air classroom is an expression of gratitude to all those who have helped to develop communities in this part of Israel.

The Jordan River Village in Lower Galilee offers children suffering from serious illnesses or complex disabilities a variety of exciting activities in a well-tended green environment. Thanks to the support of KKL-JNF’s Friends in Perth, the village is now undergoing further development. Nor have Israel’s soldiers been forgotten: the Morris and Schaffer families have helped to provide facilities for personnel at the Nevatim air base.

After the visit to Bird’s Head Forest the hosts parted from the Schaffers with warm expressions of thanks, to which John Shaffer responded: “On behalf of both families I should like to say that we were very glad of the opportunity to help to provide beauty, nature and quality of life for so many people, and also for the birds and animals in the region.”