Leveraging the Spacial Challenge of Jerusalem’s Old City For Good

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Most of us who have walked the streets and alleys of Jerusalem’s Old City get a sense of the maze like quality in which life seems to unfold. At first glance there is a lack of space and within that lacking, a suffocating feeling that there is no stronger sense of artificial experience. This seems to fly in the face of our expectations. Afterall, Jerusalem is supposed to be a taste of Gan Eden – so where is the garden?

In Whole System’s Agriculture, what we call Permaculture, a foundational principal is that the problem is really the solution. That is Jerusalem in a nutshell.

The lack of green space and naturalness may challenge our internal biophilia, but in reality this affords us an opportunity to utilize space in a far different way and in a sence rectify this apparent lacking . We are the means to Jerusalem’s completion and the uncovering of the garden that lies within.

One interesting solution and something that parallels the necessity and human longing for nature is the utilization of the courtyards that lie within the oldest of buildings in the Old City. Buildings like Beit Wittenberg, which was once the Mediterranean Hotel in which Mark Twain stayed, have enourmous courtyards at their center. This was common for buildings dating from 150 years ago.

So what is special about a courtyard?

Courtyards can be used to grow vertical gardens, maximizing the height and utilizing the shade provided. Even more so, water, which is a valuable commodity in the Middle East can be harvested far easier in these cooler courtyards. Dew collection, rain water catchment, and other methods are far easier at the bottom of the old courtyards.

At each level of the courtyard there is the potential green use for urban agriculture and beautification. Sure a building’s courtyard may be hidden from public view, but just like our own sense of connection, which is personal and hidden, these courtyards are the gardens we seek within the Jerusalem of today; a personal green space within the maze of anonymity.

Article by David Mark

David is Ateret Cohanim's Director of Communications. He is a long time Land of Israel Activist, writer and film maker.

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