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A Tale of Two Rivers and Resilience in Tel-Aviv’s Metropolitan Region
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1  School of Sustainability, IDC Herzliya, Israel.


This paper offers a comparison of two diverse approaches to infrastructure resilience planning and socio-environmental sustainability in two urban rivers in the Tel Aviv Metropolitan Region: the Yarkon and Ayalon. The Yarkon flows from the north-east through relatively high-income areas before transforming into the centerpiece of Tel Aviv’s main metropolitan recreational park. Here, resilience is framed mostly as protecting the metropolis’ ‘green lungs’ and the flow of clean water in the face of recurrent incidences of upstream pollution. By contrast, the Ayalon stream flows from the south-east through more socially-deprived areas and the metropolis’ most dense transportation ‘bottleneck’ (encompassing the Ayalon Freeway and the national railways). Thus, the Ayalon’s resilience is framed as infrastructure-dependent, and involves large plans for water diversion, flooding control, and complex interactions with transportation planning. Consequentially, the persistent north-south socio-environmental divide that has structured the metropolitan region both historically and contemporarily is also manifested in the re-workings of these two urban rivers and their reframing in terms of resilience. We investigate this ecology of unequal resilience along several dimensions, by analysis of a decade of discussions and decision making: the tensions between ‘old’ and ‘new’ functions planned into the two rivers; the contrast between the ‘slow’, recreational water associated with the Yarkon against the ‘fast’ seasonal flows of the Ayalon; the contrast between the ‘green’ sustainability approach of the Yarkon compared to the ‘gray’ infrastructural resilience of the Ayalon; and the planned futures of both rivers, which are entangled in complex calibrations of infrastructural resilience, environmental regulation and social equity. Overall, the paper seeks to narrow the gap between aspects of socio-environmental sustainability and urban resilience in the context of infrastructure planning and design.

Keywords: Urban planning; Urban rivers; Infrastructure; Resilience; socio-environmental sustainability