The slowly greening fields of a former wasteland outside Tel Aviv might be far from Dunellen, but when Madolyn Robins heard about a restoration taking place at the site, it struck a chord for the seventh-grader.
Ariel Sharon Park, more commonly known as Park Ayalon, was a refuse dump for decades; stinking and polluted, it was a threat to humans and wildlife in the vicinity. With fatalities attributed to air pollution climbing in the Tel Aviv area, a coalition of groups took up the challenge of transforming the dump.
Plans — drawn up by a team led by award-winning German landscape architect Professor Peter Lutz — envision a major green space with a nature education center, walkways, and bicycle paths. Work began three years ago and is expected to take about another seven.
Madolyn, who will become bat mitzva on June 9 at Temple Sholom in Fanwood/Scotch Plains, had been looking for a mitzva project that would inspire her. She loves the lush greenery of New Jersey and gets distressed by the destruction of wooded areas making way for more housing and malls. And she loves Israel. The Park Ayalon project brought her passions together.
“I’m interested in new examples of helping the earth,” Madolyn said. The plan to turn Park Ayalon into “a natural oasis in the heart of the dense metropolis” excited her, she said, and also the idea that it will provide educational activities for all ages.
She learned all she could about the park on the Internet and contacted the American Society for the Preservation of Nature in Israel, one of the sponsors of the renovation. With the support of her parents, Bill and Elizabeth Robins, she undertook to teach her classmates at Temple Sholom’s religious school about the ecological issues facing the Tel Aviv region, and raise funds for the park’s nature center. She earned $600 with a bake sale at her temple and hopes to raise another $400 or more with an on-line campaign.
Madolyn hopes to visit the park some day. She has never been to Israel, but, she said, she regards it as “a second home.”
“I’ve always been interested in Israel and I always like to learn more about Judaism and how we became Jews,” she said. “I’d also like to learn what goes on in Israel and see if I can help make it even better than it is. It’s the number one place I would love to visit, and also live there for a few years — as soon as I learn more Hebrew.”
Madolyn is thinking of studying law one day, but for now her interests are reading, tennis, and learning more about Judaism, she said. It is clear why the project caught her imagination.
“Everything in nature and our environment, from the weather to animals to trees, appeals to me,” she said. “I would like to explore more of nature to see what it has to offer, and I very much appreciate its beauty. But I don’t mind getting my hands dirty gardening and helping clean up what thoughtless people have left behind.”
That attitude applies close to home as well. “In the spring, my temple had a Mitzva Day and my father and I helped weed and rake an area in Cedar Brook Park in Plainfield,” she said. “I also picked up about 1,000 bottle caps that were carelessly thrown away.”
To help Madolyn Robins raise funds for the restoration of Park Ayalon, visit wepay.com/donations/178241.