JNF Begins Work on American Bicentennial Park

Come to Israel and celebrate the American Bicentennial may well be one of the slogans adopted by the Israeli tourism industry. The Jewish National Fund promises it will be worth it, with the launching of a $6 million project to develop the “American Bicentennial National Park” on the western ridges of the Judaean Mountains.

The park is planned to extend from Nes Harim, a village some 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem, down to the development town of Beit Shemesh, on an area of some 1250 acres. The park, to be completed by 1976, will be set to commemorate 200 years of American history and 75 years of the JNF.

A JNF official from the U.S., Milton Jacoby, currently in Israel, expressed the hope that the project could be dedicated July 4, 1976, the biggest JNF project since the Kennedy Memorial and Peace Forest were dedicated nine years ago. The JNF is already busy organizing large-scale “pilgrimages” to Israel on America’s Bicentennial Day.

ONE OF THE LARGEST RECREATION AREAS

If plans work out, tourists may then enjoy one of Israel’s largest complex of recreation areas–new forests, hiking grounds, a forestry museum, observation posts toward both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and rest points after a hectic day outdoors.

With this project of turning part of Jerusalem’s mountainous environs into one of the most pleasant recreation sites, JNF achieved a status no other Israeli organization did–it was officially recognized by the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration in Washington, which grants the organization many of the facilities offered by that Administration. No wonder, said Jacoby, after all, the Bicentennial National Park is the second largest non-American bicentennial project.

This reporter toured the area and learned that there is still a lot of work to be done before there will be a park. But the site is enjoyable now. A few minutes away from Jerusalem one discovers another world–the Judaean mountains with no skyscrapers, with no large-scale building projects, the fresh air in the middle of the pine tree groves–rare findings in the days in which Jerusalem is becoming more and more a metropolis.

Parts of the area are still barren, other parts covered with pine trees must be taken care of, others are so previous that they need preservation to prevent the careless Israeli from damaging them. Ilan Ben Yosef, one of the JNF’s chief planners, a young blue-eyed forest planner (who completed his studies in Canada) said one of the tasks the JNF was facing was the reclamation of natural vegetation. Part of the park, he said, may contain an area of typical American trees–to stress physically the special nature of the park.

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