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Plowshares and Peace

By Erik Skindrudd

Israeli and Palestinian design professionals supported by the American charity Rebuilding Alliance are creating a memorial garden (No. 1) and an array of playgrounds and sports facilities that are dedicated to a 10-year-old girl killed nearby during clashes in 2007.
Images courtesy of Judy Green, Israel Institute of Technology

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Architects and landscape architects came together recently to create a garden and playground dedicated to coexistence in the divided city of Jerusalem. The $40,000 project is small in scale but is making a statement bigger than its modest boundaries.

Landscape architect Judith Green lives in Jerusalem, but not on the side of town where Abir Aramin fell in 2007. The 10-year-old girl died during a clash between Palestinians and Israeli Border Police--one of hundreds of civilian victims from both sides in recent years.

Israeli landscape architect Racheli Merhav (at upper right) helped move playground sand in January at the Anata Girls' School in Jerusalem. Landscape architect Judith Green, who created plans for the memorial garden and playground, is just visible at the top of this photo (see red arrow).

Making a Point

Green felt moved to respond when her colleague, landscape architect Racheli Merhav, invited her to collaborate on a garden and playground dedicated to Abir's memory--and to hopes for peace in the neighborhood. So Green took time from her busy schedule as chair of the landscape architecture program at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.

In an email from her office in Israel, Prof. Green described the measure of fulfillment she received from her work on the project.

"The overall design of the school yard is ambitious: a complete revamping of the play yard adding elements such as a science garden... a commemorative fountain and discussion area for girls in addition to the playground," she said. "It was especially rewarding to work with Combatants for Peace and with the Anata community... to increase Israeli and Palestinian involvement in the peace process at a grass roots level."

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based Rebuilding Alliance provided $40,000 for site amenities and other material. The group Combatants for Peace raised the project profile by speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony and at events in the U.S. abroad. The group is made up of former Israeli soldiers and Palestinians who have renounced violence and dedicated themselves to a negotiated peace.

Joining Merhav and Green on the planning team was Fahmi Salameh, a Palestinian architect who helped specify and acquire play equipment and amenities for the playground.

Phase 2 Fundraising

Now in the fundraising stage, Phase 2 of Abir's Garden includes a bustan (a water feature and garden) with olive and fruit trees, benches, and a small sculpture to be designed by a student artist. The school's parents' group says it's the most important phase because it will be the center of the school grounds and a place where children can play after hours, accompanied by their mothers and fathers.

The planning team will also install lighting to let the garden and playground stay open after dark. The planned budget for Phase 2, which includes concrete, asphalt, site amenities, a drip irrigation system and nine mature olive trees priced at $75 each is $22,377.

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October 20, 2019, 8:02 pm PDT

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