Over 100 years after it was erected by the British Mandate, the Tzrifin army base has begun being demolished, the Defense Ministry announced Wednesday, as part of an initiative to move training bases to the Negev to free land for more housing in central Israel.
The base, located just outside Rishon LeTzion, is also known as Compound 4. It is the first of six IDF bases that the Defense Ministry will destroy by 2020 as training becomes more centralized, according to Channel 2.
60,000 square meters of IDF training grounds and barracks are due to be destroyed by March 2016; 420 dunams (104 acres) of land will then be transferred to the Israel Lands Authority for the sake of building housing units.
Not all of Tzrifin will be scrapped, however; several office buildings, barracks, kitchens, garages, workshops, metal workshops and a number of buildings of historical significance will be preserved and then integrated into civilian urban planning for the site.
The decision is part of a wider IDF and Israeli government program to build more than 60,000 housing units to help solve Israel's housing crisis, as well as to make space for more commercial centers.
Meanwhile, all of the IDF bases will slowly be moved to a new training complex in the Negev, known as Ir HaBahadim (lit. the city of training bases).
The town - to be named after former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon - will be built on an area of 1,065 dunams (263 acres) and will house the IDF's Armaments School, Logistics Training School, Military Police, and more.
Ir HaBahadim will also include an inn for visitors, a shopping mall, a country club and theaters, and is expected to provide a welcome economic boon for the Negev, as well as boost for the IDF, technologically and manpower-wise.
The move to the Negev, called "Project IDF Ascent to the Negev," is being termed by security network personnel "one of the largest and most important military projects in the history of the State of Israel."
Some 11,000 soldiers, both in the standing army and career officers, will serve on the technological campus of the 4CI Branch - the army's Command, Control, Computers, Communications and Information Branch. Another 9,000 soldiers will serve in other branches there.