Beersheba Mayor Rubik Danilovich announced recently that he has decided to revoke plans to build 16,000 new housing units in the city's Ramot Gimel neighborhood in favor of planting a new forest.
The urban forest will span across 1360 acres and serve as the area's green lung.
Construction in the area was approved back in 2007. The city is currently moving to rezone the area for conservation vis-à-vis the Interior Ministry. The Israel National Fund is assisting Beersheba in its forestation efforts.
The City said that it aims to create a "green band" around the city. "Despite the current zoning plan that as appropriated the area for urban development, I won’t allow for the destruction of such a unique green lung that will benefit the residents," Danilovich said.
Beersheba, he explained, "Has an abundance of open spaces that can be used for urban development. Not everything has to be looked at from a real-estate point of view. How many cities in Israel are fortunate enough to have the luxury of creating a forest in their center?"
Amnon Cohen, head of Beersheba's Environmental Department, said that the forest will become the city's most prominent green lung.
The forest's southern part already has 120,000 trees and the INF plans to plant tens of thousands new trees in its northern part.
The coming Tu Bishvat – Israel's Arbor Day – will see the INF hold a special, mass planting event in the area, on top of the routine planting planned in the forest.
The INF, with the Natural Park Service, also plans to create designated picnic areas, biking and walking trails in the forest.