The Evolution of a Park
The landscaping of the rose park has a unique and very interesting history.

The park has been landscaped twice, by two different firms of landscape architects, with a thirty-year gap between them. Despite the changes in appearance and purpose (from the President's Park to a rose park), something of the character of the original park can still be seen today.

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The pond

General Information
Previous names: The President's Park; Government Center Park.
Previous functions: Park intended for official ceremonies and special events.
Principal former landowners: The Prime Minister's Office and the Government Center (initially); ownership was subsequently transferred to the Ministry of Housing and the Public Works Department.
Target population: In the early years, the park was only used for Government Center functions. Admittance was restricted and various official government ceremonies were held there. It was only towards the end of the 1950s, thanks to public pressure, that the park was opened to the general public.

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The small quarry
(archive photo)
The small quarry today

Planning and Construction
Planning the Government Center and Initial Ideas about the Location of the Park (1949-1952)
Documents in the State Archives describe the early stages of planning the new government center in Jerusalem. It transpires from these documents that even in the initial stages of planning there was a demand for a prestigious park at the heart of the government center.

The location of the park was also chosen at an early stage, as can be seen from a 1950 map entitled "Jerusalem-Proposal for the Area of the Government Buildings." The words "green area" appear at the center of the proposed government center.

One year later, in 1951, the plans for the government center in Jerusalem were presented to the Government Center Committee; they included the layout of the buildings and allocation of the land on which a "government center park" appears in the exact location of today's Rose Park.

It is interesting to note that, although the general plan for the government center was only partially implemented at the time, when the Supreme Court was finally built in the early 1990s, it was erected on the very site assigned to it in 1951.

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The central pergola (archive photo)
The central pergola today
The central pergola today

Planning by Meir Victor (1951-1952)
The first meeting of the planning committee of the government center gardens, chaired by Meir Victor, who was at the time the government center's landscape architect, took place on January 16, 1951. (It should be remembered that in the first years of statehood, Israel's center of government was in Tel Aviv and it was only later transferred to Jerusalem.)

At that meeting, Victor presented his plans to those present, who expressed their opinions and raised problems regarding issues such as the entrance to the park, the gradient of paths and plazas, the location of the steps, the use of walls, and how to take advantage of the quarries, the problem of soil erosion, tree planting, and more.

The landscape architect Yechiel Segal was invited as a consultant to the second meeting of the committee. In the fullness of time, his son, Joseph Segal would be commissioned to re-plan the park as the Wohl Rose Park of Jerusalem. Yechiel Segal expressed his opinion on the plans, suggested improvements, and raised issues to be checked. All present noted that it was difficult to plan a park that bordered on buildings for which the plans had not been finalized (i.e., the Knesset and the government ministries, which were still being planned at that time) and agreed on the need to leave an open area so that all the elements would harmonize when the buildings had been constructed. A document produced by the Prime Minister's Office on April 5, 1951 describes the start of the building of the government center.

"Forestry and Parks
At the end of 1949, the planting of trees in the valleys of the government center began. This work has continued throughout the years and to date nearly 220 dunams [55 acres] have been planted. At the end of 1950, earthwork began for the central park, which will cover 60 dunams [15 acres]. So far, over 30 dunams have been prepared-the land leveled, quarries filled in, support walls built, garden soil laid down, and so forth and this work is still continuing. Planting of trees and plants has also begun, and a nursery has been set up on site for plants for most of the area of the park and for forestation."

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The path that would become the Supreme Court-Knesset axis (archives)
The Supreme Court-Knesset axis today

As stated, in its early years, the park was used for state ceremonies only and was closed to the general public. At a certain point in the 1960s (it is not clear exactly when), the park was opened to the public and additional furniture, such as benches and trashcans, was added. The 1968 Master Plan for Jerusalem drawn up by Aviya Hashimshoni notes:

"Urban recreation areas: In addition to the urban parks from the Mandate period, three spacious parks have been developed in the city:
Independence Park in the city center;
Sacher Park in the Rehavia valley;
The President's Park at the government center.
The latter is used for state occasions only."

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The pergola (archive photo)

In Ze'ev Vilna'i's book The New Jerusalem and its Environs (Hebrew) (1976), he noted that there was a copy of the American Liberty Bell in the park. (The bell was transferred to the Liberty Bell Garden, when it was built in 1978.) Mention is also made of the Seven-Branched Menorah and a sixth-century mosaic floor that was brought to the park from Kibbutz Sede Nahum.
According to various testimonies, in the 1970s, the park was somewhat neglected and Jerusalemites remember it chiefly as a place for scout camps during which rope-climbing competitions were held above the large pond.

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The Garden of the Nations (archive photo)
The Garden of the Nations (archive photo)
The Garden of the Nations today

The Creation of the Wohl Rose Park and the Re-landscaping of the Park by Segal, Dekel, Miller, Ltd.
In 1978 and 1979, Mr. David Gilad of the Israel Flower Board, a veteran rosarian and rose promoter, was looking for a location for a rose park, which would be the focal point for the international rose congress slated to take place in Israel in October 1981. In cooperation with landscape architect Joseph Segal, whom Gilad infected with what he called "rose fever," Teddy Kollek, then mayor of Jerusalem, and the Jerusalem Foundation, he chose the President's garden as the appropriate site because of its unique location and the panoramic views it offered. Gilad's efforts to find donors to build the park were successful and Vivienne and Maurice Wohl agreed to sponsor the project.

The new landscaping of the park was entrusted to a planning team comprising landscape architects Joseph Segal, Tsvi Dekel, Uri Miller, and Meir Victor, the original architect of the park.

The "Evolution of the Park" is taken from a final paper on the Wohl Rose Park of Jerusalem by Yasmin Itamari, 1996 (translated by Naomi Halsted).