Plans are progessing on a major garden park system here that will include a U.S. Bicentennial project containing areas sponsored by evangelist Billy Graham, B'nai B'rith and others.
Also part of the Jerusalem Gardens National Park is a $1 million park on the slopes of the Mount of Olives being developed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon).
Jerusalem Gardens will be a "green belt" of more than 600 acres surrounding and protecting the walls of the Old City. It is being developed by the National Parks Authority of Israel and the city of Jerusalem and will encompass historic area around the Old City.
The project is designed to beautify Jerusalem, provide playground and recreational areas and preserve such ancient and historic sites as Mount Zion, the City of David, the valleys of Kidron and Mount Scopus. About 11 parks are planned for the system.
The American Bicentennial Liberty Bell Garden covers a seven-acre site visible from Mount Zion and is expected to be completed this year and dedicated July 4. The park was opened July 4, 1976, during U.S. Bicentennial celebrations and contains a replica of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Trees were planted in 1976.
Billy Graham has donated funds for a Meditation Garden within the Liberty Bell garden and B'nai B'rith will develop at the entrance a Liberty Bell Plaza Park that will contain an amphitheater band shell and ball park, according to the Jerusalem Foundation.
The U.S. project also will include a children's playground, a volleyball court and soccer field, a cafe and a garden covered with a canopy of vines and flowers.
The Mormon Church project will be named Orson Hyde Memorial Gardens in honor of Orson Hyde, an early Mormon apostle who came to Jerusalem from Salt Lake City. He visited the Mount of Olives and gave a dedicatory prayer for the rebuilding of Israel and Jersualem.
A fund drive has been launched by the Mormon Church to raise the $1 million to pay for development and building of the gardens. The government of Israel and the municipality of Jerusalem have agreed to provide care and maintenance for the property for 999 years.
The idea of creating a national park around the walls of the Old City was endorsed by the late Prime Minister Levi Eshkol after the conclusion of the Six-day War.
C. R. Ashbee, one of the initial planners of the project, said the vision is to "isolate the Holy City, set it, so to speak, in the center of a park, thus recognizing the appeal it makes to the world: the city of an idea."