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Commuting to the Western Wall

by harry August 20 2008
City planningMunicipal news
Non-stop to G-d

 One way ticket to Heaven and back?

Back in 2006, the Jerusalem municipality proposed the building of a cable car spanning from Mt. Zion to the Western Wall. The Western Wall, by far Jerusalem’s (and Israel’s) most popular tourist attraction, is also one of its least accessible. The few streets of the Old City open to motor vehicles are almost always congested with traffic and parking spaces are few and far between, with public parking completely nonexistent. Folks currently have to rely on the all too inconvenient public transportation, a taxi or their feet to get to the Western Wall plaza.

The Municipality's proposal was for a 70 person capacity cable car to run every five minutes from Mt. Zion, over the Hinnom Valley and end at the Dung Gate of the Old City next to the Western Wall. Jerusalemite praises the city for coming up with such an unconventionally awesome solution to a serious problem, but is slightly disappointed that it proceeded to chuck it out the window - all chatter concerning this ambitious (and probably not too expensive) plan has subsided.  

Jerusalem Transportation official Shmuel Elgrably told The Jerusalem Post back in 2006 that "engineers and city officials studying among other things its economic feasibility, could get off the ground within three years of approval." Needless to say, almost three years have passed and nothing has come of it.  With the enormous projected number of tourists set to visit in the next few years, a solution is needed - and Jerusalemite appreciated that this one found its inspiration in a small, yet important, piece of Israeli history most people aren't even aware of.

Located on Hebron road not far from the Cinematheque lies the Mt. Zion Cable Car Museum. This small (and free!) museum tells the story of the cable car set up by the Hagana during the War of Independence that was used to transport materials to the Harel Brigade on Mt. Zion. The small cable car was only used for six months, but the Israel Defense Forces claim that it was in working order up until 1967. It was used only at night and taken down before sunrise as not to be detected by Jordanian forces. The cable car is on display at the museum as well as details of its uses.

Alas, the museum will be all that we have because last week YNET reported that the Jerusalem Municipality held an uber-secret meeting discussing the extension of the light rail system to the Western Wall:

The proposal for the train's new path was offered as a solution to the Old City's chronic traffic congestion, specifically near the Western Wall. Jerusalem Municipality's transportation department prepared a plan for the limitation of traffic within the Old City, in addition to a plan for the improvement of public transport in the area.

However it didn't take long to rule out all options other than the train, which would circle the city's walls until reaching the Dung Gate, which is just one minute's walk from the Western Wall. Architects have planned for the train to pass through Mt. Zion, and an underground tunnel has been planned for this purpose.

Construction on the new plan, which is to extend the route of the already approved tracks, may last two to three years, and some of the residents living close to the route may have to evacuate the area in return for compensation.

Yes, that's right. More construction ahead but this time it will actually displace people from their homes. And a tunnel will be built through Mt. Zion. So if simply building an infrastructure for the light rail was so problematic what can we expect when they actually have to build a tunnel?
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