The Jerusalem Municipality and the Jewish National Fund last week cut down several dozen healthy trees in the Jerusalem Forest, to create fire breaks as buffers between the forest and the nearby community of Yefe Nof.
The mature pine and cypress trees were cut down in keeping with lessons learned from the Carmel fire in December 2009, which in addition to killing 44 people, caused severe property damage.
Most experts and environmental groups support the policy, but Jerusalem-area residents used to a green landscape outside their windows, were not convinced. The work of thinning out trees has intensified in recent months in the Judean Mountains between Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh, and at some points on the Carmel.
After the first major fire on the Carmel in 1989 experts set parameters that determined the width of the fire breaks as a function of the forest's proximity to residences. However, those guidelines are only now being implemented.
Yefe Nof resident Ita Hod said, as she watched the trees near her house coming down: "I've lived in the forest for 40 years and the trees never hurt anyone. Every morning 40 or 50 birds would gather and chirp. Now there are no more birds."
"I'm not a kid, but I feel like crying," said a neighbor, Naftali Goldberg. Some residents of the Kisalon area west of the capital got into arguments with Jewish National Fund workers over the work.
Veteran environmental activist Tzipi Ron said the damage was severe. "They should have studied what the right extent of the work is, and where non-essential damage could be prevented." Ron said it would have been less damaging if the work had not been done in flower-blossom season. The Jewish National Fund said the work had to be done before the dry season and the greatest possible care is being taken, but "when the choice is between human lives and thinning out the forest, human life takes precedence."
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