Anyone who regularly walks on Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Street between the Habima theater and the Dizengoff Center mall can't help but notice the startling sight of what until a few days ago were proud green trees but are now mere shadows of their former selves.
The city cut off all the foliage and trimmed the branches ahead of winter, as it does every year, leaving some saddened Tel Avivians to look at the wreckage and complain that city workers were too quick with the pruning shears.
"They pruned the trees excessively. From my perspective, they're practically uprooted," said Edna Sobol, who lives in central Tel Aviv and is active in a group of "tree devotees" run by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.
"They destroyed 80 percent of each tree - it's unbelievable," she said. "We sat with the municipality in endless meetings and talked about how it's necessary to monitor the people who do the pruning. That didn't happen with the last pruning."
Yisrael Golan, the Agriculture Ministry official responsible for forestry, plans to examine the trees himself and decide whether the complaints are legitimate and if so, what should be done, the ministry said.
Two years ago, tree lovers waged a struggle against a massive pruning carried out in the city. As a result, the city issued guidelines last year about how to care for Tel Aviv's trees.
"The guidelines talk about a certain percentage of foliage that remains on the tree after the pruning," said Guy Nardi, who heads SPNI's Tel Aviv-Jaffa division. "But they didn't leave anything. The trees are bald. The reckless and unnecessary pruning is borderline negligence," he said. Nardi said several residents have complained about the trees, adding that it's an ecological issue and not just a question of appearance.
However, a recent poll of Tel Aviv and Jaffa residents found that 68 percent approved of the city's pruning and 24 percent wanted the trees to be trimmed more than they already are, the municipality said in a statement.
Though Sobol and Nardi both argued that there was no real reason for the city to trim the trees so extensively, the city said the annual pruning prevents branches from hitting electrical wires during a storm, and the pruning has led to a 50-percent reduction in the number of fallen branches.
"The pruning is carried out in accordance with the safety directives of the Israel Electric Corporation and under the supervision of the municipal agronomist," the municipality said in a statement. The city also said the trees on Dizengoff Street need to be treated extensively if they are to grow back to their full height.
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