Gazelle Valley Park is Israel’s biggest urban nature reserve and also the best place to watch endangered mountain gazelles in their natural habitat.
The valley was once a home to a herd of over 30 wild gazelles until 1993 their passage to the mountains surrounding Jerusalem was blocked by a new highway.
The gazelles were trapped in the valley and the herd gradually disappeared.
Most fawns born in those years were eaten by stray dogs and city-dwelling jackals, and those who survived to adulthood, were likely to be killed in the traffic of the nearby highway.
For more than 12 years the inhabitants of the neighboring streets fought to save the valley, and in the year 2015 Gazelle Valley Park was established.
By the time the park was finally established, there were only 3 gazelles left.
In the first two years of the park’s existence, the several additional gazelles who were rescued from illegal captivity, were introduced to the park.
However, since 2017 the herd is growing independently.
Today there are over 45 mountain gazelles are living in the park, leading a mostly natural lifestyle.
Like in the wild, the gazelles find food on their own, breed, raise their young, and fight over territory.
Alongside the gazelles, the park is home to dozens of species of birds, reptiles, insects, and plants, creating a functioning urban ecosystem.
There are over 500 species of plant life which grow in the park.
Many of which were reintroduced in an effort to recreate the original flora which existed in the mountains of Jerusalem prior to the 20th century.
The ponds and trees provide both a habitat and a nesting site for hundreds of local birds, and an important resting stop for thousands of migratory birds a year.
The ponds also host a large population of the levant water frog, which is the main food source for the local kingfishers.
Gazelle Valley park also operates a Greek tortoises shelter for tortoises that were taken from the wild and kept as illegal pets and lost their ability for independent survival in the wild.
Gazelle valley is accessible for wheelchairs and strollers, and you can reach the park with both private and public transportation.
The park has lots of shaded picnic spots and benches which are great for family events of up to 40 people.
Picnics are very much allowed, however, but it’s crucial that no plastic waste or food is left behind.
These can create a possibly fatal health hazard for the gazelle and for many other wild animals in the park and in any other nature site.
The park is open year round, during all daylight hours, and the park offers free tours and activities during national and Jewish holidays.
For a group guided tour you are welcome to hire any private tour guide of your choice.
For directions, park rules, and visting hours check out the Gazelle Valley Park site.