Plan to Restore Office Used by Ben-Gurion Stirs Conservationist Battles

Plans to restore a house that served as the office of Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, could damage an adjacent park and create a dangerous precedent, Ramat Gan residents and an environmental group claim. Local residents and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel are petitioning the Ramat Gan municipality to scrap the plan, which would involve allowing the owners current owners to build on land in the nearby Avraham Park to compensate them for the loss of the property.

Those opposed to the plan say permitting the construction of an apartment building on land which is currently part of the park will damage the park's unique ecosystem as well as the urban fabric.

Anat Barkai of SPNI said the park has historical value, as part of a grid of recreational areas set aside by Ramat Gan's first mayor, Avraham Krinitzi. She said that if the plan is approved it could serve as a precedent for other local governments to grant building rights in other recreational areas to developers as compensation.

"By law, the plot offered in compensation should be as close as possible to the original plot where owners had building rights," the Ramat Gan municipality said in response. "An area consisting of a rocky outcrop on the edge of Gan Avraham that because of its layout was difficult to develop for the public had been found. In the overall evaluation it seems the restoration of Ben-Gurion's offices is vastly more important than the removal of a small part of Avraham Park, which is very big."

The Ramat Gan spokesperson said NIS 6 million will be spent on restoring the historic building. In addition, two small gardens will be created on either side of the building and a currently closed tunnel will be opened to connect the two parts of Avraham Park.

Barkai argued that the municipality can grant the owners building rights in a nearby vacant lot.

Krinitzi was born in Grodno, Belarus, then part of the Russian Empire, before immigrating to pre-State Israel in 1905. He was a powerful politician and served as mayor of Ramat Gan from 1926 until his death in 1969.

He created the park which was later named after him on top of one of the four ridges upon which the city was built. The park has an amphitheater and serves as an important pedestrian crossing for local residents. Ben Gurion used the building located on the edge of the park as his office, and directed the military effort during the 1948 War of Independence from within it.