Shelly Cohen

The exhibition “Relocating the Costal Road” by the landscape architect and artist Relli De Vries focuses on the intersection between Jisr Az-Zarka – the distinct Muslim Arab settlement that despite the 1948 war remained in place on the coastline – and the coastal intercity road known also as Road No. 2.

The coastal road was built in phases between the 1950s and 1970s. The part of the road that practically delimits Jisr to the east was constructed in 1967-1970. The route, reaching the settlement somewhat in bending, was built on the lands of the village expropriated for public needs by the government of Israel.

The geographic reasoning accepted by various people involved in constructing the road in its present route was the use of the calcareous sandstone as the road’s bed thus making it unnecessary to descend to the swamp. That way the expenses on the infrastructures – required for supporting the ground under the road – were saved. Relli De Vries doubts however in the geographic motive as the only one explaining the route because as the road moves along it knows how to widen itself eastward and get built on infrastructures prepared especially for it.

The coastal road’s approach to Jisr is an acoustic hazard and the barring of potential of the settlement to spread to the east. The route of the coastal road keeps the poor and dense village trapped in an enclave, bounded by two well off settlements. To its south Caesarea placed an earth-made battery (accompanied by massive press coverage), and to its north its spreading is limited by the location of natural reserve of Nahal Taninim (Crocodile Stream) adjacent to Kibbutz Maagan Michael. Moreover, the fast road passes by Jisr thus not allowing an exit from the fast road and entry into the village through an interchange. In this way the village cannot use the economic potential created by its visitors. Entry is possible only from an inner fast road (No. 4) but that too runs only through a narrow (agricultural) opening below the coastal road. Attempts by Jisr’s inhabitants to cross the busy road took a heavy human toll.

De Vries therefore sees in the choice of the route for the coastal road in the Jisr area an expression of a historically designed discrimination by the state, through planning of infrastructures, against a Palestinian Arab settlement that is anyway placed at the bottom of the socio-economic scale in Israeli society (measured as the rate of entitled for a matriculation certificate among high school graduates, and as average earnings per capita).

In the exhibition – taking place at the critical moment of designing a new master plan for Jisr – De Vries analyses the location of the road. And she proposes a detailed planning alternative that combines the relocation of the road with the enlargement of the settlement, and with a hydrologic and ecological rehabilitation that would favor Jisr and its vicinities.