Givatayim Residents Fight to Save Their Hill From Tel Aviv City Hall

Tel Aviv’s smaller eastern neighbor, Givatayim fights for small rocky hill, home to a number of endangered species.

About a week ago, Givatayim resident Danny Levy took a walk to the rocky hill near his home which locals call Givat Kozlovsky, hoping to find the delicate, white small-flowered pancratium in bloom. He was shocked to find that the hill, known to be one of the most important nature sites in the greater Tel Aviv area, was in an advanced stage of destruction. Since then, Levy and other residents have been working to save what is left of it.

For the past few weeks, Tel Aviv's water corporation, Mei Avivim, has been expanding infrastructure at the site. A wall is being built to separate a large reservoir there from the rest of the hill. During the work, much of the vegetation was cleared away and the area was damaged by bulldozers. Although the hill is in Givatayim, the Tel Aviv municipality maintains the water-related installations there.

Danny Levy at Givat Kozlovsky -  Nir Kafri - 05092011
Nir Kafri

"Almost all the natural landscape that was here has been destroyed over the past few days," said Levy, who is a botanist. "This hill had abundant wild vegetation. Among other plants, there were species of orchid and garlic. People should have taken into consideration the uniqueness of this hill and the damage should have been avoided."

Givat Kozlovsky is the largest remaining area of calcareous sandstone, known in Hebrew as kurkar, between Herzliya and Rishon Letzion. At 85 meters above sea level, it is also the region's highest hill. Along with a wide range of wild plants, it is also home to land tortoises, a species that is in danger of extinction in Israel. But the site's rarest denizen is a snail, Trochoidea picardi, named after an Israeli geologist.

"This snail lives only in pockets of kurkar in the area of Bnei Brak and Ramat Gan, and this is the last place in which it has survived," said Dr. Henk Mienis, an expert in mollusks, from Tel Aviv University. "I'm afraid that it will have no chance of surviving on the hill, and this species will therefore be wiped out."

Another Givatayim resident, mollusk-lover Uri Ben-Zeev, said there were signs as early as two years ago that construction was going to start in the area.

"Together with people from Tel Aviv University, we collected more than 200 mollusks and moved them to the university's botanical garden to save them, but they did not survive," Ben-Zeev said.

The Givatayim municipality responded that it "wants Givat Kozlovsky to remain an open green space that is accessible to the public, but the municipality of Tel Aviv is operating in the area."

Mei Avivim responded that its workers are "building a security fence around the reservoir along an existing fence. The work is being carried out while taking all necessary steps to prevent harm to the hill and its vegetation. The work is important to the health of the residents who are consumers of the water."