(November 12, 2018 / JNS) The Old City of Jerusalem can be a fabulous place to visit, but the one who tried with ease surely failed miserably. And that is because there is no truly convenient way for most people to reach the area without a large walk or spending in a private cabin.
Add in the middle of summer the fire or crowds, or both, and you are looking at a rather unfortunate experience. This is what they expect to change the Jerusalem Municipality, the Ministry of Tourism and the Jerusalem Development Authority, along with many residents and tourists. With the growing number of tourism and even more expected in the coming years, Jerusalem simply can not handle large amounts of tourists and the Old City needs a plan. This plan is to build a cable car that starts at the First Station complex just outside of the Old Walls and ends outside the door closer to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount.
A record number of tourists-3.6 million- visited Israel in 2017. October 2018 was the best month of tourism yet. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics of Israel, about 486,000 tourist records were registered in October, a monthly record of all time for incoming tourism. 2018 is on its way to reach 4 million tourists.
The cable car covers the Hinom Valley, arrives at Zion Gate and then the Dung Gate. Some activists claim that the cable car will ruin the old city's horizon and should not pass through Gey Ben Hinom National Park. They also say that the Elad group – the company that directs the archaeological site of the city of David – will benefit financially from the cable car from the construction of the final station on its property. At the same time, the Arab residents of East Jerusalem complained that they were not consulted in the planning process and argue that construction would displace residents in the predominantly Arab Silwan district.
Doron Spielman, Vice President of the City of David Foundation, refutes these statements. He told JNS that "the planned cable car project is the initiative of the City Council of Jerusalem and several Israeli government ministries. The city of David welcomes all projects that increase access to millions of visitors per year, of all beliefs and origins, who seek to connect with the historical meaning of ancient Jerusalem, including the places of the Old City and the city of David.
Recently, the cable car project was sent to the National Infrastructure Committee, which, in turn, approved the presentation of the cableway construction plan. After the approval of the committee, the plan moves to the phase in which the comments and objections of the district commissions and the public are welcome. The National Infrastructure Committee is made up of representatives of the government, public representatives and representatives of local authorities that discussed the matter.
The Minister of Tourism, Yariv Levin, said: "We have another great step towards approving the cable car project in Jerusalem. We are leading and protecting the project, which will change the face of Jerusalem, allowing comfortable and convenient access for tourists and visitors to the Western Wall. The cable car will serve 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 that exists in the southwestern Basin of the Old City, given the significant increase in tourist traffic to Israel in the last two years. The cable car will be part of the system of public transport of the city and will make accessible sites of national, international and tourist importance ".
The Ministry states that the cableway system will have a capacity of 3,000 passengers in each direction during the peak and will be connected to the planned massive transit system in Jerusalem. The cable car offers a unique transport solution in an area with topographic restrictions, limited capacity for road infrastructure and historical and archaeological sites. Unlike other methods, this means of transport above the ground does not require significant land, nor does it require construction or expansion of the roads.
It is also a "green project" characterized by minimal environmental damage, quiet technology and zero pollution.
"A project of great importance"
In May, the government approved the bill proposed by Levin to allocate 200 million NIS of the Ministry of Tourism for the construction of the cableway. The project will be implemented by the Jerusalem Development Authority.
According to a press release from the Ministry of Tourism, the cable car project "is an important milestone in the promotion of Jerusalem and strengthens its status as a world tourism capital, in order to significantly increase tourism entering the country and strengthen its economy The cable car, which will also be a unique tourist attraction with views from the top of Jerusalem and its unique sites, will also serve to strengthen and develop the tourist product of the city's nightlife …
"The cable car will provide transportation and environmental solutions and will make accessible to the Old City for people with disabilities. On holidays for the three monotheistic religions, between tens and hundreds of thousands of people visit the Old City. Currently, access to the vehicle for no Residents are banned in most of the Old City and, therefore, the cable car is defined as a project of great importance for tourism in Jerusalem. "
Ilanit Melchior, director of the Jerusalem Development Authority, told JNS that "the project is moving forward. We're building the cable car."