Trees Planted by Bialik in Danger of Being Cut Down

Trees that were planted by Israel's national poet, Haim Nahman Bialik, in Jerusalem almost 100 years ago are now in danger of being cut down. The Jerusalem municipality says that if its efforts to preserve the trees in Gan Bialik fail, it will be forced to remove them for fear of endangering passersby.

Bialik, a pillar of Tel Aviv's literary and cultural society in his day, was also one of the founders of Jerusalem's Beit Hakerem neighborhood in 1922. He bought a lot in the neighborhood and intended to build a house there.

But he never got around to building his house in Jerusalem, so the lot, on the corner of today's Bialik and Hameyasdim streets, remained empty. The neighbors were unhappy with this situation and therefore asked Bialik to plant trees on the lot.

"He agreed, and hired some brothers from the Bukharan Quarter to plant trees there," said Ephraim Schlein, a resident of Beit Hakerem and the neighborhood's unofficial historian.

About 30 trees, mostly Jerusalem pine (Aleppo Pine ), were planted on the lot in the late 1920s. Bialik, who continued to come from Tel Aviv to visit Jerusalem every summer, stayed with a friend named Borochov in the building across from the little clump of trees.

After Bialik's death in 1934, a neighborhood committee bought the lot from his widow. The site, close to Mayor Nir Barkat's house on Hameyasdim Street, is officially named after two American donors, but everyone knows it as Gan Bialik ("Bialik's garden" ).

The trees grew and today provide shade to a small, popular playground. Their literary origins are inscribed on a plaque.

But in recent years, some of the trees have begun to tilt sideways in a dangerous way, and in some cases, branches have fallen off. The city recently announced its intention to trim them and, where necessary, cut off limbs in danger of falling off.

"The Jerusalem pine has a relatively short life expectancy," said Rakefet Hadar-Gabai, the city's chief botanist. "They get old after 50 or 60 years. We're trying to save them. We trim them and bind them to stabilize them. But you have to remember it's a playground."

One tree was cut down two years ago, and the city planted young pines in its place to maintain the garden's character, she said.

"The forest in Gan Bialik consists of about 30 trees, a small number of which are a public hazard," the municipality said in a statement. "The city is looking for ways to preserve the trees by trimming or supporting them so that they don't endanger passersby. However, if these solutions don't work, there will be no choice but to uproot the dangerous trees."