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Israel's temporary government has pushed through a controversial cable car plan for Jerusalem's Old City Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Israel's temporary government has pushed through a controversial cable car plan for Jerusalem's Old City

Still from a video simulation of the proposed cable car [Jerusalem Development Authority]

Date of publication: 5 November, 2019

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Israel's Housing Cabinet approved the plan to construct a cable car over Jerusalem's historic Old City, despite objections from architects and local Palestinian residents.
Israel approved on Monday a highly controversial plan to construct a cable car to the Western Wall of Jerusalem's Old City, Haaretz reported.

The plan is opposed by architects, local Palestinian residents and environmentalists, who say it will cause irreversable damage to the historic Old City and affect resident's quality of life.

Israel's Housing Cabinet approved the project despite an inquiry sent by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit days earlier, in which he warned that a plan of this scale should not be approved under a transition government.

Israel's second general election this year took place on 17 September, but has yet to yield a new government as coalition negotiations falter.

The cable car construction plan still needs to "undergo a procedural approval by the government", Haaretz reported, before it can be enacted.

Its construction would see a 1.4 kilometre cable car line stretch from the First Station Compound in West Jerusalem, over Abu Tor and Valley of Hinnom neighbourhoods, through the Mount Zion parking lot and onto the Kedem visitor centre from which visitors can walk to the Western Wall.

The Kedem visitor center is located in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan, and critics fear the project will bolser the Jewish presence in Silwan neighbourhood.

Attorney Sami Arsheid also told Haaretz that the cable car, which will pass a few metres over the homes of residents, will negatively affect their quality of life and privacy.

"The proposed plan constitutes a serious blow to Jerusalem's historic landscape in its most important and sensitive areas," read a report against the plan submitted by the Israel Association of Architects and Urban Planners.

Merchants in the Old City have also submitted complaints against the plan, Haaretz reported.

The cable car's final destination would be by the Dung Gate, by which Palestinian residents reach the Old City's Muslim Quarter and the merchants fear they will have to make a lengthy detour. 

'Waited 2000 years'

Israel's tourism ministry and the Jerusalem Development Authority approve of and have promoted the plan, which was fast tracked by the National Infrastructure Committee.

Critics claim that if the project had been spearheaded by the District Planning Committee, it would have faced more objections. 

But its supporters claim the cable car project will serve as an integral part of the public transportation system, easing the strain busloads of tourists put on Jerusalem's Old City. 

They say 3,000 people could be transported to the Old City per hour, which 73 passengers fitting in each individual cable car.

"The Western Wall is not accessible enough for the broad public. We've waited 2,000 years [to return] to the Western Wall, and it's impossible that heavy traffic prevents thousands of people from praying, visiting and taking part in military and national ceremonies that are taking place there," said Finance Minister Moshe Khalon, head of the Housing Cabinet.

Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze'ev Elkin said the plan is a "strategic project to promote tourism in the southeast basin of the Old City. We are gradually transforming a vision into new reality and soon the Western Wall and other important sites in the Old City will be more accessible".

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