Kiryat Yovel - Tomer Appelbaum - June 21, 2011
One of the trees uptooted during the street work, June 21, 2011 Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Dozens of decades-old trees were uprooted and killed during street works to make way for a future light rail in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Kiryat Yovel recently.

The trees were uprooted when the hillside they grew on was dug out and replaced with a concrete wall, as part of a plan to widen the road.

When the residents protested, the works were stopped and about a dozen of the trees were replanted at alternative locations, but died soon after.

In the past two months, the municipality and the municipal company Moria have been carrying out extensive development works on Hantke street, Kiryat Yovel's main thoroughfare.

The works include expanding the road to accommodate a future light rail line. To expand the road, bulldozers have demolished a natural rocky hillside along one side of the road and replaced it with a wall. The hillside was occupied for years by pine trees that were planted there in the early days of the neighborhood, in 1954. "Some residents said they're happy their father wasn't alive anymore, because he would have died seeing them tear out these trees," said Shoshana Kligman, one of the residents who tried to stop the works.

The protests stopped the works for a week in April. The city's chief botanist, Dr. Rakefet Gabi, ordered that trees only be uprooted with professional oversight, and that they must be transferred to alternative locations. But once the works resumed the uprooting continued, despite the instruction. The 12 trees that were relocated were replanted before water or proper soil could be arranged, and most died in the process. Kligman said one of the men in charge of the works told her it would cost him less to pay the fine for killing a tree than to carefully replant it elsewhere.

A source close to the project told Haaretz the works were carried out as fast as possible, with minimal planning, because the city was eager to speed the light rail project along.

The municipality said in response the trees were on public ground which was always meant to become a road, and that municipal officials will tour the full length of the proposed light rail track to settle the residents' complaints.