Cabinet ministers on Sunday approved a plan to construct a cable car from the new city of Jerusalem to the Western Wall, which will allow more accessibility to the holy site, as part of a series of measures aimed at strengthening facilities in capital.
The cable car, to run from the city’s First Station complex to the Old City’s Dung Gate — the main entrance to the Western Wall — aims to ease traffic in and around the maze of narrow streets in the ancient part of Jerusalem by whizzing visitors across the 1.4 km route (just under a mile) as the crow flies, in just 3.5 minutes.
The cabinet approved the first phase of the joint project between the Tourism Ministry and Jerusalem Development Authority. The Tourism Ministry will cover the initial budget of NIS 15 million ($4.2 million) with the total cost of the project estimated at about NIS 200 million ($56 million).
The project, the brainchild of the Jerusalem City Council and its mayor, Nir Barkat, has stoked controversy because the route passes over parts of East Jerusalem.
Two years ago, the France-based utility giant Suez Environment said that, because of political sensitivities, it had decided not to take part in the project.
Much of the international community does not recognize Israel’s claim to East Jerusalem, which it captured in the 1967 Six Day War, before annexing it. Also, anything to do with the Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount, which today houses the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, risks fueling tensions in the region.
“The future cable car will change the face of Jerusalem, allow easy and convenient access for tourists and visitors to the Western Wall, and serve as an exceptional tourist attraction,” Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said. “There is no more appropriate and exciting time than this — 50 years since the reunification of Jerusalem — to launch this revolutionary project.”
The cable car will be designed to serve about 3,000 visitors an hour in each direction and will travel at speeds of up to 21 kilometers an hour (13 miles per hour). The plan is for the cable car to begin operating in 2021.
Access to the Western Wall is currently via narrow, winding and very crowded routes. The cable car is intended to provide easy, quick and convenient access for approximately 130,000 visitors who come to the site each week.
Sue Surkes contributed to this report.