Girishkumar Kumaran

A curious being
A male mountain gazelle

Mountain gazelles of the Gazelle Valley in Jerusalem – an urban nature reserve

This post includes

  • How to reach Gazelle Valley?
  • Entrance to the Valley
  • Food and drinks
  • A 5-minutes video tour inside the Gazelle Valley
  • What did I see there?
  • The story of Gazelle Valley
  • What are mountain Gazelles?
  • and what I want for them?

I visited the Gazelle Valley park in Jerusalem twice during the summer in 2018. The park is one of a few urban nature reserves in the world.

Gazelle Valley as a nature reserve and public park was opened to the public in 2015. This development came after a long battle between those who wanted to conserve the habitat and those who wanted to construct high-rise buildings in this area.

The valley is home to a group of mountain gazelles, hence the name gazelle valley.

A female one-and-a-half horned mountain gazelle resting in an open field and carefully watching my movements. Females have shorter horns compared to their male counterparts.

Best time to visit

I went there in the morning between 7 am to 10 am. This is the best time to see maximum wildlife because they come out to graze and enjoy the sunshine. Indeed, I was lucky that I could see a lot of gazelles and birds there.

Gazelle Valley Bus stop Route map
Google Maps image that shows the Herzog bus stop to get down to reach Gazelle valley urban nature reserve. The area shown in green is the Gazelle valley nature reserve.

How to reach Gazelle Valley?

I took the bus #5 to get down near the Gazelle valley park at Herzog bus stop. The gazelle valley park was within a walkable distance from the bus stop.

There were a lot of buses running through that route so it should not be a problem to reach there by public transport.

However, public transportation remains scant during Shabbath hours during Friday and Saturday.

The road to the valley is muddy, and at the entrance, I found ample parking for anyone who wants to reach there by car. There is also a small office at the gate.

A small office at the entrance of Gazelle valley urban nature reserve.
A small office at the entrance of Gazelle valley urban nature reserve.

Food and drinks at Gazelle Valley

The dry climate in Israel makes me thirsty all the time. However, there were no shops nearby at Gazelle Valley park. If you are like me, always carry ample amount of water to drink and something to eat.

Entrance to the Gazelle valley park

The entrance to the park is free. The valley is open all day from sunrise to sunset. However, I personally think that the best time to visit this place is in the mornings or in the evenings when the settlers of this park, the mountain gazelles, are out for grazing.

I think bicycles are allowed. I think no dogs are allowed, atleast I saw none.

A video tour inside Gazelle valley

What did I see in the gazelle valley park?

Gazelle Valley is a prominent open space in the middle of Jerusalem that is green and serene. I saw a lot of gazelles; males, females, and young ones in there. They seemed a bit cautious but not dejected by humans nearby. I saw them locking their horns, playing, grazing, and relaxing. Sometimes, I saw them in groups, sometimes I saw them alone. There are walking and bicycle trails and picnic spots inside the valley, which is bordered by wire fences. Beyond the barriers are the rehabilitation zones of these mountain gazelles, which we should not cross. There are also benches to sit and enjoy the tranquility of the place. There are also ponds, and streams around which we can see a variety of birds. I saw kingfishers and a few other types of birds. Many who visit the valley are hobbyist bird watches. I also came to know from others that some people do meditation in this noisy park.

A long-horned mature male gazelle resting and grazing while carefully watching me to see what am I about to do. Males have longer hornes compared to their female counterpars.

 

The story of Gazelle Valley

Geographically, gazelle valley is part of the Jerusalem forest. Don’t ask me where the forest is. It’s an urban myth. The construction of a highway during the 1980s isolated the valley from the rest of the forest. This development trapped around 30 mountain gazelles in the valley. The fruit orchards in this area were an important supplier to the ancient Jerusalem. However, increased cost of maintenance forced the people to abandon the farms. Later in the 1990s, builders showed interested in the valley to construct high-rise buildings. However, people who realized the importance to conserve the habitat of these mountain gazelles joined together and battled it. Eventually, the Jerusalem municipality decided that they will convert this valley into an urban nature reserve. The place was opened to the public in 2015.

Walking trail inside the Gazelle valley nature reserve. On the right, you can also see the wire fences that we should not cross beyond which is the rehabilitation zone of the mountain gazelles.

What are mountain gazelles?

Israeli summer is harsh. To avoid the heat, gazelles move up the cliffs during the day time. Consequently, they got the name mountain gazelles. However, the construction of the highway confined the gazelles that live in this urban nature reserve within its limits, and I sympathize with them. However, when I visited, I saw no mountains around? All I saw was huge buildings and traffic around. These gazelles are denied of their natural rights.

A pond inside the Gazelle Valley nature reserve. I saw a lot of kingfishers and a few other birds fishing their breakfasts.

Mountain gazelles are a symbol of beauty and fierceness since the time of biblical texts. Poets adored their beauty and warriors envied their swiftness and speed. The Songs of Solomon (2:17) goes like this..

Until the day breathes and the shadows flee, turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle or a young stag on cleft mountains

What I want for the mountain gazelles in this valley…!!

I genuinely praise the efforts of the people that translated into the establishment of Gazelle Valley. Nevertheless, I think that there is a kind of a show going on here. Gazelles deserve a peaceful life in their natural habitat, which is not achieved in the Gazelle Valley area. I will try to explain why. One of the significant distractions to their peaceful life is the noise. I heard the sirens of emergency vehicles that fly by through the highway many times while I was there. I saw a young gazelle standing up curiously as to what that sound is. The sounds of the cars whizzing through the highway could be another distraction. Another distraction to them is the visitors. They are continuously distracted by visitors, and that includes me. I suggest that the Israel government should consider to rehabilitate them in a place with mountainous terrains, and not as a public park. They are not exhibits or showpieces. As the dominating species on this earth, we should be more considerate to our fellow beings.

A kingfisher I saw near the pond.

If you liked what you read, please subscribe to my YouTube channel for more videos. In case you have a comment about what I wrote, please write it down below in the comments section. I will answer them as soon as possible. Thank you for being here. Girish

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