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The aptly-named Ariel Sharon Park

Opinion: Israel’s biggest garbage dump is being redeveloped — and renamed.

Hiriya, at that time, was just as unpopular as Sharon. It was the first sight I had of Israel when I left Ben-Gurion International Airport on the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway. I looked out of the taxi window at the 260-feet-high hill rising steeply out of the otherwise billiard-table flatness of the Dan plain and said, “Oh, a mountain? In the middle of a flat place like this?”

“It’s a mountain,” said my driver, with the kind of cynical sneer specific to Israelis that I would come to know so well in the ensuing decade. “A mountain of our shit.”

In fact, 112 acres of ordure a half-mile square, 565 million cubic feet of garbage gathered there since 1952, pumping out methane, carbon dioxide and sulfur. Bulldozers (also a common nickname for the unyielding Sharon) trundled about on top of the mound, shunting the trash into lanes and looking like childrens’ toys on the enormous excrescence. Flocks of gulls swarmed like flies on a giant reclining rhino.

Such dense clouds of gulls that they caused several engine failures when they collided with jets taking off or landing at Ben-Gurion over the years — one of the reasons for closing the dump in 1998.

As Prime Minister, Sharon supported the idea of turning Hiriya into a park. He blocked attempts to develop the area for housing.

There are now three recycling plants beside the hill of garbage, so in the end its bulk will be trimmed. Its greenhouse gases will eventually be used to create the electricity to light the amphitheater for nighttime shows. The whole park will cost $250 million and is expected to be completed by 2014.

Organizers have said the site will be an international tourist draw, like Stonehenge.

Well, there will be some archaeological sites inside the park—though not perhaps of Stonehenge’s magnitude. Some of them are from the ancient town of Bnei Brak, which used to stand in the Hiriya area during the Talmudic period.

This archaeological park will be named after Menachem Begin, the prime minister who was drawn into the Lebanon War by his defense minister, Sharon. When he saw how the war turned out, Begin fell into a depression — also prompted by the death of his wife — and lived in seclusion until his death in 1992.

Begin will be a sideshow to Sharon’s main billing at the park. It’s only a shame that Sharon’s stroke hit before he could make his disastrous conduct of the Lebanon War a footnote to his closing down of the Israeli colonies in the West Bank.