Everyday life in an extraordinary place.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Paving Paradise

This Postcard from Israel was originally published on 20 November 2005.

When we first moved to this neighborhood in 1995, there were a couple of paved streets, an older section with a synagogue and a mom and pop market, a new elementary school, a few new apartment buildings with a couple more under construction, and sand. Alot of sand. We walked across sand dunes from our apartment at the edge of the neighborhood to check on the progress at our home's construction site. Now, of course, there are other houses, streets, preschools and a park between those two places.

When we bought our as yet unbuilt house, we saw the plans and schematics proposed for the entire neighborhood. Or, so we thought. We knew where the public playground would go, where the streets would be put in. After a bit over a year, our home was finished and we moved in. There were still more undeveloped lots than houses on our street (which, by the way, was nothing more than a sandy track). We looked forward to seeing the area grow, and eagerly awaited the day when neighboring homes would be built and the winds blowing in from the Mediterranean Sea would cease carrying sand into our yard.

Over the next few years, homes went up and improvements were made to beautify the neighborhood. Families with several kids - and several cars - moved in, and things began to get a little crowded. More preschools were built, and a group of residents fought for - and got - new classrooms added on to the already overfull elementary school. The road leading into and out of the neighborhood became congested, particularly during the morning rush hour.

A second elementary school was built, a new mini-mall complete with a small supermarket went up (putting the mom and pop place out of business). A second commerical area was built, complete with a MacDonalds. A traffic circle was put in on the main street leading past the first elementary school, and speed bumps were added to other roads.

Now things are going one large step further. Rather than continued development and refinement of the settled part of the neighborhood, we have signs of expansion on the previously untouched northern edge of the neighborhood. Signs for future high-rise apartment buildings have gone up, along with model apartments. Heavy machinery clears away wildflowers and brush, flattening out the dunes in preparation for the construction of a new, bigger shopping mall.

On the one hand, all of this construction and development is a sign of stable economic times - a good thing. On the other hand, the neighborhood is already straining at its seams. Parking in a small neighborhood like ours shouldn't be impossible, yet it is. While there are two elementary schools, there is no junior/senior high school. There aren't even enough preschools. Just leaving the neighborhood during morning rush hour can take a quarter of an hour, or more. This place is no longer the cozy haven it once was. Soon, the fabulous view of the Mediterranean Sea from the main road will be blocked by a shopping center and apartment towers.

In the early days, we were impatient for the neighborhood to be finished, and settled. Now, when we look back to those days, our eyes are covered by rose-colored glasses. Still, in spite of the inconveniences, the area was quieter, the pace was slower, and people had time to hang out in their front yards and chat. I guess the song really does have it right: "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."

(c)Amy Samin

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