ficus tree in Tel Aviv - Tomer Appelbaum - 08022012
A ficus tree in Tel Aviv. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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The Tel Aviv Municipality is marking Tu Bishvat, celebrated on Wednesday, with the publication of a book describing 29 trees in the city which are outstanding due to their size or age.

However, environmental activists say the city is doing little when it comes to protecting its arboreal treasures.

According to the book, written by the municipality's landscaping and city beautification coordinator, Avi Levy, there are 221,000 trees in Tel Aviv, half of which are on private land, and a quarter of which are considered particularly old.

About 50,000 trees have been planted over the past decade, the book states.

It mentions three large, centuries-old ficus sycamore trees in Gan Ya'akov park, near Habima Theater, two of which have large wounds which have been filled with concrete to keep the tree stable.

Another special tree is a ficus on Pompedita Street, whose giant roots have emerged above ground.

The city's sole cork oak was planted on Rabin Square after it was renovated. Originating in North Africa, the tree has a unique cork-covered trunk, which can be peeled every few years and used to make various products.

However, according to a report by a group of Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel activists in Tel Aviv, the city allows hundreds of trees to be cut down or moved every year. While it plants other trees to replace them, the young trees will not provide shade for many years, the group says.

"The contribution of the date palms planted along Ibn Gabirol Street is like nothing compared to that of the trees that are being uprooted," Guy Nardi, the head of the SPNI group, says.

According to Nardi, the city has not carried out a tree survey, and prefers to move ahead on construction projects rather than on projects to preserve trees.

The Tel Aviv Municipality said in response: "All the trees in the city are now mapped, and most of the trees we have moved have successfully taken root. In the future we will consider undertaking a gradual comprehensive tree survey. There is no list of trees slated for preservation because according to the law, all trees are protected."

The city also said it considers as very important that trees not be damaged during construction projects. "The cutting down or moving of any tree is carried out only after a careful study and approval of the municipal agronomist. With regard to new trees, we believe every tree that is planted has value and is an ecological contribution to its surroundings."