The Hiriya is a 60 meter high mound of waste. It is the first sight, and smell, many tourists have upon entering Israel, being next to Ben Gurion Airport. Thankfully, the landfill is now closed, and the mound is being converted into the centerpiece of the new Ariel Sharon Park, set to be the largest new urban park built in the last century in the world. Bigger than Central Park in New York, the Ariel Sharon Park is currently open in a limited format, and will be opened in stages until its completion in 2020.
At present the walking and cycling trails, recreational pond, tiny zoo and picnic areas of the western section, Menachem Begin Park, are open, as well as a recycling center for which tours must be booked (for groups only +03-739663)
A green lung
Hiria recycling park is one of the largest facilities of its kind in the world. On a tour of the park you can see landfill rehabilitation at its best: One facility utilizes biological sub-systems to reduce the weight of municipal waste by more than 90% and produce bio-gas to create electricity, recovering glass and metal in the process. Methane gas recovery from the mound is a means for Hiria to earn part of its development funding (the rest is through contributions and matching government funds); the gas is sold and piped to a nearby textile factory.
This year a recycling plant for tires; another for building material and yet another that turns plant prunings into ground cover that Israelis are encouraged to use instead of water-guzzling grass.
The carefully tended garden near the visitor center is no ordinary flower bed. Aquatic beauties like water lilies, papyrus and other species sprout from a very special mini-wetland: a self-sustaining system that treats sewage with the help of bacteria flourishing on the roots of the plants. The micro-organisms break down toxins in water siphoned off from daily arriving municipal refuse and from the Hiria mound. This process purifies the water, which can then be used for irrigation.
At the visitor center, virtually everything (including the building itself – which was once a huge compost shed) is recycled: Furniture and accessories are made out of tires, cans and bottles, as is a gigantic, colorful ceiling fixture. Even the employees’ kitchen is a treasure-trove of found-object décor. At lectures and workshops, visitors can learn here from the experts how to change behavior patterns to help protect and rejuvenate the environment.
And for the future
The mega 2,000 acre park will be a green lung in the center of Israel’s densely populated Coastal Plain serving not only the residents of Tel Aviv, but also the many neighboring cities. A proposed 50,000 seat amphitheatre will make the park a venue for concerts on an international scale, whilst the views from the top of the mound, and the ‘inner lung’ which will be created featuring special plants and a lake, will create a site which is more than one of just leisure, but an ecological masterpiece.
The Hiria mound will feature an “inner oasis” with special vegetation and shade areas, as well as a pond. Environmental sculptures planned for the mound will remind visitors of the ecological revolution this unique site represents as Israel works toward a cleaner, greener future.