Wednesday, August 3, 2011
The Lifschitz Street Park -- Jerusalem Playground Reviews, pt. 2
Location: Access to this large Baka park/playground is via Lifschitz and Peretz Streets, and by a footpath to the side of the kindergarten building at #9 Pierre Koenig St. (the path includes a few steps).
It took years and years for me to discover this gem of a park -- and I thought I knew the area well, despite not actually being a Baka resident. Presumably anyone who lives in Baka would be familiar with the place; yet it is remarkably invisible to non-residents, despite its size (large by Jerusalem standards) and open, flowing design. Somehow the park manages to be wedged between two major thoroughfares -- Rivka St. (to which Lifschitz runs directly parallel -- pictured at left) and Pierre Koenig (the main drag of the Talpiot Industrial Area) -- yet without being visible from either.
Rivka and Pierre Koenig streets bustle with commercial activity, vehicular and foot traffic, yet the Lifschitz Street Park -- accessible to both via short footpaths, is a veritable oasis of greenery and calm.
Shade: In general, this park has abundant shade.
The toddler play area has sufficient shade to make it usable throughout the morning, until noon.
The play area for older children is, unfortunately, in full sun pretty much all day -- from 10:00 am or so until 3:00 or 3:30 pm.
The lawns/picnic areas have plenty of shade throughout the day.
Older children: The play equipment for older children includes, in addition to the swing set pictured at top, a large slide/tunnel complex.
Toddlers: A separate play area (on the park's lower level) includes a slide, a carousel, a running barrel, spring toys and seesaws. Nothing too fancy, just plain, old-fashioned and serviceable equipment.
On the upper level (the older children's play area), the aforementioned swing set includes one toddler swing.
The upper and lower play areas are connected both by steps and by a winding path for strollers.
Seating: There are plenty of benches in shady spots throughout the park, as well as a couple of picnic tables.
Snack factor: There is no adjacent grocery or kiosk, making it hard to pick up something healthy if you've forgotten to bring provisions, or to treat the crew to an ice cream. However, the nearby Talpiot Industrial Area offers an abundance of eateries and supermarkets. Rivka Street, directly parallel to Lifschitz, is home to Burekas Ima (pictured at left). Ima, a venerable local institution , offers a particularly large selection of semi-nutritious mizrachi-style savory baked goods such as individual pizzas, pitot topped with roasted vegetables, blinz-type things filled with chickpea paste, etc. -- along with the standard burekassim, breads/rolls and dessert items. So you don't have to feel too guilty about having left those tuna sandwiches home. Treat yourself to an iced coffee, while you're at it.
Chevra (schmooze factor): One thing that I find distinctive about this park is the presence, on weekday mornings, of a regular crowd consisting primarily of metaplot (family-based childcare providers) and their young charges. This provides a certain user base that makes the park attractive to other people as well. As noted above, the park, despite its proximity to a major commercial and shopping area, is hidden from the nearby main roads and doesn't get much "incidental" traffic -- i.e., shoppers dropping by to sip a soft drink, or to let their kids air out between errands so they don't get pushed past their boredom limit; working people on their lunch hour, and so on.
This limitation on the park's user diversity is compensated for by the presence, at regular hours, of metaplot and young children, who attract other users that the park might otherwise not get.
Knowing that Orly will be in the toddler playground area at around 11:00 with her little troupe of 2-3 year olds --
and her exceedingly gentle and tolerant dog Angie --
makes me and other SAHMs/WAHMs want to be there too.
This combination of metaplot who integrate the playground into their daycare routine, and mothers who drop by on a more irregular basis with their youngsters, creates a sense of community -- a social framework that is intimate yet open, stable yet fluid.
Multiple uses within the park:
-- There is play equipment that suits both toddlers and school-aged children.
--The fact that the toddler and older-child play areas are on separate levels, rather than being inconvenient, is actually a plus.
The areas are visible to each other, so a mother in the toddler area can keep track (to some degree) of what the older kids are up to, and they are connected both by steps and by a winding path for the convenience of stroller-pushers and wheelchair-users. (This concern for access is, unfortunately, not something to be taken for granted in Jerusalem.)
-- The older-child play equipment includes some items that can be used by toddlers, e.g. a toddler swing within the swing set ,
while some of the toddler equipment could be attractive to older children as well
... meaning that a youngster who gets bored in one area of the park can wander to another area and find something to do there.
-- Lawns on both levels with ample shade throughout the day.
-- Picnic benches.
-- Shrubbery that is open and child-friendly (suitable for exploring).
-- Paths for bicycling/tricycling/scootering/"bimba-ing".
-- Sometimes features intended for other uses entirely become successful play arenas. My two year old just loves to walk around and around the stone perimeters of these raised tree/shrubbery platforms:
Beyond the park (services and amenities available in the Lifschitz St. area)
Despite being hidden and little-known, the park is close to all sorts of worthwhile things:
-- In one direction you have the shopping mecca of Talpiot, with its lovably chaotic mix of malls and commercial strips, carpentry shops, eateries, auto repair shops, educational institutions, government agency offices, and organizational headquarters. If you know where the Lifschitz Street Park is,
and your errands are confined to, say, the Hadar Mall on Pierre Koenig St. (pictured at left) and thereabouts, you can easily combine a shopping expedition with a park outing. If you come to the area by car, I recommend simply parking on Lifschitz St. (parking there is plentiful; in addition to the on-street parking there is a large lot surrounding the Yedidya shul adjacent to the park). You can get out to Rivka St. via one of two footpaths that start directly across from the park and from the adjacent Kehillat Yedidya shul.
--In the other direction, into the quiet streets of Baka, there are a few points of interest for those seeking to entertain children. One is the Baka branch of the Jerusalem Public Library, located in the community center at 3 Issachar St. Although by Western standards this library is exceedingly modest, by Jerusalem standards it is quite presentable. There is some comfortable seating, and parents can often be seen reading to young children here. The library has a relatively decent collection of English-language books for children.
Another item of interest in Baka is Zoology (pronounced in Hebrew with a hard "g") -- an animal-based enrichment and activity center for children. It is located on the premises of the Tali Geulim School on Kibbutz Galuyot St., a couple of blocks from the Lifschitz Street Park. Zoology runs courses and also has open hours for visitors, with explanations by trained guides.
Items of visual/architectural interest on Lifschitz St.:
Lifschitz Street features an eclectic mix of old stone houses ...
newer imitation Arab-style houses ...
and shikkun buildings (1950s-era Israeli mass housing) that have been refurbished in a respectable, if uninspired, way. Note the shrubbery in front of these buildings, and the human-scaled entrance area -- features that recent Jerusalem residential architecture has done away with in favor of the almighty garage entrance.
Directly across the street from the park entrance, at #25 Lifschitz, one enters a footpath
that turns into what must be one of Jerusalem's narrowest walkways:
This little passageway yields some picturesque sights:
The rather bucolic little footpath brings you out to busy Rivka Street. Note the Domino's Pizza located in an old stone house stranded in the middle of a parking lot.
Back on Lifschitz, at #12 (right next to the park entrance), is the synagogue building of Kehillat Yedidya, completed in 2003. According to Kehillat Yedidya's website, the structure resembles an "unfurling scroll."
Up the street is is a more traditionally-designed shul building:
Hadar Mall via Wikimedia Commons