Gey-Ben-Hinom National Park, Jerusalem

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Gey-Ben-Hinom National Park, Jerusalem, 2005-2010

The Valley of Gey-Ben-Hinom lies on the southern slopes of the historic old city of Jerusalem. For centuries, in the Jewish, and later in the Christian tradition, this beautiful valley was the burial place of the less fortunate pilgrims who could not afford the privilege of burial within the city walls.

Tradition has it that it was in this valley the Judas received his plot of land in return for the handing over of Jesus to the Roman rulers. The slopes of the valley are full of burial cave systems, beautifully preserved. The monastery of Onophorius commands the lower part of the valley. In recent times, this part of Jerusalem became an unofficial waste dump, mostly of rubbish from the many illegal building sites in the city. The area was declared a National Park for its historic value and the beautiful views towards the old city and the dome of the rock. The job began with a massive clean-up of the area (more then 1,000 truckloads of waste were removed from the site), then the upgrading of infrastructure (road and sewage lines). And lastly, a modest restoration of the natural and man-made landscape that dominated this area before it was abused, the policy being: the least possible intervention. Low-key hiking paths with tree-shaded vista points overlooking some of the best views in Jerusalem were added. These paths casually meander between beautiful burial caves and other archeological relics.

Jerusalem has thus benefited from a revived, natural open space that is exciting both historically and visually.