The Israel Museum has filed an urgent objection to a proposed plan to build a major light rail station that would cut off the museum from the Valley of the Cross, a historic green space that is considered an extension of the iconic museum.
According to museum director Iddo Bruno, the Jerusalem Light Rail planners apparently neglected to consult the museum about the Golden Line, the light rail route planned near the museum.
The proposed plan includes constructing a terminal for the route near the museum, with space for parking and train servicing, creating a prominent barrier between the museum and the Valley of the Cross.
The valley is home to the 11th century Monastery of the Cross, and has long been a green space for locals crossing through.
It was by chance that Israel Museum director Bruno found out about the planned light rail station, during a presentation from the municipal company about a different city project.
“I saw something on the side of the presentation and asked what it was,” said Bruno. “They said, ‘Oh, that’s the Golden Line, that’s just about confirmed.'”
He noted it as something to follow up on, and soon after, he and Yitzhak Molcho, the museum’s longtime director of the board, noticed signs posted on the valley’s olive trees that referred to upcoming planned construction.
“We woke up all of a sudden and realized this was happening,” said Bruno.
The museum officials surmised that the planning was done while the museum was in a transitional period, when former director James Snyder left and while there were several interim directors before Bruno took over in 2017, nearly two and a half years ago.
“This is a project with a lot of potential to affect the museum,” said Bruno. “The founding fathers of the museum saw the valley and the hill on which we’re located as an important piece of the museum. Our complaint is how could you do a major project like this, and change the entire face of the area, instead of planning this with us, and looking at what was intended for this part of the city?”
The museum is not opposed to the light rail or the station, and has proposed placing it along Ruppin Boulevard, a main street that connects many of the museums, including the Bloomfield Science Museum and the under-construction new building for the National Library of Israel. The area is known as Museum Row.
“We need another option,” said Bruno. “Instead of ruining this passage through the Valley, which is negligent, let’s figure out this area that has so much potential. It’s a one-time opportunity.”
Bruno and other museum officials will present their arguments at a planning session on January 21.
“It’s all very urgent,” he said. “They took a narrow view of this, and didn’t take history and other long-term effects into account. That’s the feeling for us.”