By Ron Bernthal
Tel Aviv residents will soon be able to take a new walking/biking route from the city’s trendy Neve Tzedek neighborhood to the Mediterranean coast, along the new linear park named Hamesila.
The first section of Hamesila opened in early October, 2020, and runs for almost 3,000-feet along a former, historic railway line. This first section includes walking and cycling paths created between the stone walls that once were part of the original rail line between Jaffa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which opened during the Ottoman-era, from 1517 to 1917, when the area of present-day Israel, along with much of the Middle East, was ruled by the Ottoman Empire.
Although remains of the historic rail are embedded in the pedestriann path, and several historic details were preserved, like the original sloping walls along the railway track’s path, and the pillars that supported the old railway route, Israeli architects say that the new park is not supposed to be an archaeological treasure,but rather a novel way to link an inland neighborhood with the coast.
The original railway track was built in 1892, 17 years before Tel Aviv was formally established on a beach just north of the Arab town of Yafo, now often called Jaffa. The park’s official name, Park Hamesila (or Train Track Park in English) is an open, peaceful path that cuts through a residential and commercial environment, bringing a much needed recreational outlet to the district.
Hamesila is the newest component of a city plan to restore and protect public areas in Tel Aviv for the sole use For many years, there has been talk in Tel Aviv about restoring public areas for pedestrians and cyclists, and some areas, like Habima Square and Dizengoff Square, have seen greatly reduced intrusions by automobiles and motorbikes, resulting in less air and noise pollution. But many residents feel that these “green” environments should be expanded into more city neighborhoods.
Hamesila is entirely devoted to pedestrians and cyclists without any concession to motorists (such as underground parking), and eventually will stretch over an area of 7.5 acres and cross over the new Red Line of the Tel Aviv light rail network, now under construction as engineers tunnel under nearby streets. The Red Line should become fully operational in 2022.
Now that the first section of the park is completed, an additional 1500-foot section is expected to be completed by the end of 2020. When that section is finished, the linear park will provide the first continuous pedestrian and cycling link of its kind from Rothschild Boulevard in the central part of the city, directly to the beach. Israelis were always able to walk or bike to the beaches, but only via streets crowded with cars and motorbikes, and sidewalks filed with shoppers, not on a protected walking and biking path.
“What’s nice about Tel Aviv’s boulevards, for example, Ben-Gurion and Nordau, is that they run toward the sea,” said Tel Aviv-based architect Opher Kolker. “The new park will connect Rothschild Boulevard to the sea and complete Tel Aviv’s network of boulevards,” said Kolker, who is in charge of the planning team working on the first part of Hamesila, among other city architectural projects.