(November 12, 2018 / JNS) The old city of Jerusalem can be a great place to visit, but anyone who has tried to get there easily has probably failed miserably. And that's because there's no really convenient way for most to reach the area without going a lot or going on a private cabin.
Add in the Middle East summer heat or crowds, or both, and you're looking at a rather miserable experience. It is precisely what the City of Jerusalem, the Ministry of Tourism and the Jerusalem Development Authority together with many residents and tourists hope to change. With growing tourism figures and even more anticipated in the next few years, Jerusalem simply can not handle large amounts of tourists and the Old Town needs a plan. The plan is to build a cable car that begins at the First Station complex just outside the Old City Wall and ends just outside the gate closest to the West Wall and the temple.
A record breaking number of tourists – 3.6 million visited Israel in 2017. October 2018 was the best tourist month yet. According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, about 486,000 tourist records were recorded in October, a full-time calendar for incoming tourism. 2018 is about to beat 4 million tourists.
The cable car is expected to extend across Hinom Valley, which reaches Zion Gate and then Dung Gate. Some activists have claimed that the cable car destroys the skyline of the old city and should not pass through Gey Ben Hinom National Park. They also say that the Elad group – the company that drives the city of David from archeological sites – will benefit economically from the cable car because the last station will be built on its property. At the same time, Arab residents in eastern Jerusalem have regretted that they have not been consulted in the planning process, claiming that the construction would displace the inhabitants of the overwhelming Arab region of Silwan.
Doron Spielman, Vice President of David David Foundation, rejects these claims. He told JNS that "the planned cable car project is an initiative of the Jerusalem City and several Israeli government departments. The City of David welcomes all projects that annually increase access to millions of visitors – of all faiths and backgrounds trying to join the historical significance of ancient Jerusalem, including places throughout the Old City and the city of David. "
Recently, the cableway project was handed over to the National Infrastructure Committee, which in turn approved for submission the plan to build the cable car. After approval of the committee, the plan will go to the stage where comments and objections from district committees and the public are welcomed. The National Infrastructure Committee consists of government representatives, public representatives and local government representatives who discussed the matter.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said, "We have taken another major step towards approval of the cableway project in Jerusalem. We are spearheading and budgeting the project, which will change Jerusalem, providing easy and convenient access to tourists and visitors to the West Wall. The cableway will work as an exceptional and important tourist attraction. "
According to the Ministry of Tourism, the cable car is designed to address the problem of congestion and accessibility found in the Old East Southeast Basin, given the significant increase in tourist traffic to Israel in the last two years. The cable car will be part of the city's public transport and will make available places of national, international and tourist importance. "
The Ministry claims that the cable banking system will have a capacity of 3,000 passengers in each direction during peak times and will be linked to the mass transit system planned in Jerusalem. The cable car offers a unique transport solution in an area with topographic constraints, limited road infrastructure capacity and historical and archaeological sites. Unlike other methods, transport means above the ground do not require significant land, it does not require the construction or development of roads.
It is also a "green project" characterized by minimal environmental damage, silent technology and zero pollution.
"A project of great importance"
In May, the government approved the bill Levin proposed to allocate 200 million German crowns from the Ministry of Tourism for the construction of the cable car. The project will be carried out by the Jerusalem Development Authority.
According to a press release from the Ministry of Tourism, the cableway project is "an important milestone for promoting Jerusalem and strengthening its status as world-class capital to significantly increase future tourism to the country and strengthen its economy. The cable car, which will also be a unique tourist attraction overlooking Jerusalem and Its unique places, will also serve to strengthen and develop the nightlife product of the city. …
"The cable car will provide transport and environmental solutions, and it will make the Old Town accessible to people with disabilities. On holidays for the three monotheistic religions, tens of hundreds visit thousands of people in the Old Town. Today, vehicle access for foreigners is prohibited in most parts of the Old Town, and therefore, the cable car is defined as a project of major importance for tourism in Jerusalem. "
Ilanit Melchior, director of the Jerusalem Development Authority, told JNS that "the project is moving forward. We are building the cable car."