ANZAC 100 - The Music, Nature and Zionist Story of Jerusalem

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

On the fifth day of their trip to Israel, the JNF Australia delegation visited this site to see the fruits of their support for the park’s development.

In Jerusalem, the JNF Australia ANZAC Centenary Mission visited the unique Gazelle Valley Park- a natural gem nestled between Jerusalem’s highways. The group also explored two more fascinating aspects of this magical city during their visit to the Hebrew Music Museum and the Friends of Zion Museum.

Tucked away between the noisy roads of Jerusalem, a corner of magical natural history has been cultivated. Diverse vegetation, a variety of animals, and even a herd of deer, continue to thrive together in Gazelle Valley Park in the heart of Jerusalem. On the fifth day of their trip to Israel walking in the footsteps of the ANZAC Light Horse Brigade, the JNF Australia delegation visited this site to see the fruits of their support for the park’s development.

JNF Australia’s contribution to the establishment of the park included, among other things, the cultivation of the Great Meadow to its south, including a fruit tree orchard, an accessible pathway and the placing of information signs. Three open classroom were also established with the support of friends from Australia. They are used for training, surveillance, or simply for a moment’s rest.

"I have always been attracted to KKL-JNF’s work out of concern for the environment.” observed Anna Berger of Sydney, one such donor, “The preservation of nature inside the city is of major importance".

The park, which spreads over 75 acres, includes man-made ponds, streams, picnic areas, accessible walking tracks and bicycle trails. The minimalistic level of development enables the preservation of the natural surroundings and habitat of the animals.

The guests were received by Miri Sack, representative of the Jerusalem Foundation. "The park has brought about real change in the area in that it allows nature to flourish in the heart of the city," she said.

In the past there had been orchards in the valley, but these agricultural areas were abandoned, and as the area underwent accelerated development, the local deer population had found themselves caught between roads and buildings. Real estate developers planned to build a residential neighborhood here, but the residents of the nearby neighborhoods objected strongly, and established a committee which fought to save the beloved valley. This struggle became a model example of cooperation between community needs and environmental responsibility. The residents shared their vision with Israeli green organizations and the Jerusalem city council.

During the Australian group’s visit, some of the gazelles overcame their wariness and peered out between the bushes, wondering for a second what all the fuss was about, but returned immediately to go about their business. Due to the park’s policy of non-interference, the deer replicate all the behaviors that are typical in the wild, including male rivalries, reproduction and the raising of the young fawns.

Park Director Yael Hammerman, who guided the group on the tour, remarked that a few days prior to the visit, another fawn had been born in the park, bringing the deer population there to 25. "This is a species that is in danger of extinction, and in the future we hope that we can release deer that grew here into the wild," she said. Hammerman explained that the irrigation of the park is based mainly on rainwater. In the winter, runoff is collected from the roads, purified in the park and then allowed to flow into the pools.

The unique valley attracts visitors from all walks of life- local residents and tourists from other parts of Israel and around the world; religious and secular people; Jews and Arabs; nature lovers and families out for a picnic. Guided tours are free of charge. Visitors may borrow binoculars to observe the variety of animal that call this park home.

Les Rosenfeld of Sydney is one of the park's donors. His last visit to the site was some two years ago, when the park was still under construction. "You can definitely see the change that has taken place since then," he said. "In Sydney we have many green areas, but of course I understand that Jerusalem is different. When you see all the surrounding buildings, and nestling between them is this green park, it's easy to understand the importance of the place.”

It is hoped that Gazelle Valley will become a model for other parks of this kind to be established in other cities in Israel. The harmonious coexistence between nature and urbanity will benefit both societies and the environment.

Museums in Jerusalem

Wednesday, November 01, 2017
The delegation’s next stop was at the Hebrew Music Museum, where the participants embarked on a journey between the different cultures that formed the history of Hebrew liturgy and music. The museum casts a spotlight on the diversity of influences on Hebrew music such culture as Andalusian, Middle Eastern, Eastern European, Northern African, Balkan and others.

The exhibits include ancient musical instruments and manuscripts, alongside modern technological exhibits. Upon entering, the guests received tablets which provided them with interactive guidance during their tour around the museum.  The highlight of the exhibition was a presentation that took visitors on a virtual reality musical tour of the Temple.

From there the group continued to the Friends of Zion Museum, which was established as a salute to the Jewish people and to those who stood by them and supported the Zionist idea and the establishment of the State of Israel. The museum opened two years ago and was created by an American Christian organization. The exhibits combine advanced 3-D technology and impressive audio-visual content.

Each of the museum’s four floors tells the stories of friends of Israel in a different period: the 19th century, the British Mandate, the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel. From among the many heroes depicted, one particular person who is connected to ANZAC stands out - John Henry Peterson, who commanded the first two Jewish battalions that fought alongside the ANZAC fighters in World War I: the Zion Mule Corps in Gallipoli, and the 38th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, which fought in Palestine.

At the end of the visit, the members of the delegation were given free time to further explore the city on their own, which included a tour of the Mahane Yehuda market. The group spent the weekend in Jerusalem before continuing their journey to the south of Israel.