Monday, December 12, 2011

Green Traveler: Beersheba, Israel

August 7 and 11, 2011 -- Water is a precious resource in the Middle East. Israelis are well aware of the water shortage in the region and are taking steps to reduce, reuse and recycle. Nowhere is the scarcity of water felt more than in the Negev desert of southern Israel. In Beersheba the nahal (river) is but a trickle most of the time and the riverfront district has been neglected for years.

But in Israel turning a barren desert into a green oasis has been a national mandate since its founding. So it should come as no surprise then that The Beer Sheva River Park is currently undergoing a major reconstruction project thanks to the Jewish National Fund's Blueprint Negev initiative. This project will create a 1,700 acre riverfront district that will be the catalyst for the revitalization of the "Capital of the Negev."

Here are some highlights of the restoration project taken directly from the JNF website:
  • "JNF has succeeded in cleaning up the river that had been used as a dumping ground for decades, and has completed half of the planned 8 kilometers of landscaped promenade on each shore. Engineers responsible for the success of the San Antonio River Walk are partnering with JNF to send water through the river bed year-round. 
  • JNF plans to use its expertise in water rehabilitation to recycle the city’s water and transport it to a 15-acre lake for boating.
  • Plans include gardens showcasing desert flora and fauna, bicycle paths, recreation areas, an 12,000 seat amphitheater and 750 acres of new parks with 40,000 new trees."
When I walked across the street from Abraham's Well I saw a new promenade called the J. Lew Schepps Recognition Center, a newly paved walkway and a bridge under construction that leads to a park and bicycle paths on the other side of the river. So the restoration project is well underway.

If the Beer Sheva River Park restoration project is successful it could become a model for other cities attempting to find creative solutions to water conservation and economic development. 

Click here for more observations of Beersheba on my travel blog.

Here are more photos from The Beer Sheva River Park.