Steinitz and Erdan Sharon Park Moti Milrod
Gilad Erdan, in tie, and Yuval Steinitz, far right, looking out from atop the Hiriya landfill. Photo by Moti Milrod
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It's been five years since the cabinet approved the construction of Ariel Sharon Park, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv at the Hiriya landfill, but work on the site has just begun.

Much of the land earmarked for the park, which is to be the largest in the country, is held by the Hazera agricultural company and is not at the disposal of the park's planners. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz visited the site yesterday and for the first time promised the treasury's assistance with funding and getting Hazera to vacate.

Steinitz was accompanied by Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, who is responsible for the government company created to design and build the park. Erdan did not conceal his delight at the views of the Dan region visible from the top of the Hiriya landfill hill, one of the park's centerpieces.

"This will be the biggest, greenest park not only in Israel but in the Middle East, and for every tourist arriving on a plane that flies over the hill and descends toward Ben-Gurion Airport it will be the entrance gate and the exit gate from the country," Erdan declared.

Many obstacles to the park's completion remain. No allocations have been made for the work as of yet. In addition, the government company has had difficulties, and its management was recently replaced.

Yesterday the head of the company, Moshe Borochov, promised that within six months an observation point would be built on the Hiriya and the park there would be opened to the public. Naomi Angel, Tel Aviv District Planner in the Interior Ministry, said that the plans for footpaths between the park and adjacent cities are nearly completed.

The plans for draining the park and creating an man-made lake were recently submitted to planning authorities for their approval.

The biggest immediate obstacle is Hazera's refusal to vacate tracts of land it leased for agricultural purposes. The company is demanding hundreds of millions of shekels in compensation and is in violation of an Israel Lands Administration order to leave. Erdan said yesterday that the State Prosecutor's Office is cooperating with government ministries over legal action against Hazera.