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Israel okays $35 million to upgrade Western Wall infrastructure, boost tourism

5-year plan brought by PM Bennett comes from budgets of his office and ten government ministries

View of the Western Wall plaza and the Dome of the Rock in the background, in Jerusalem's Old City, December 23, 2021. (Lee Aloni/FLASH90)
View of the Western Wall plaza and the Dome of the Rock in the background, in Jerusalem's Old City, December 23, 2021. (Lee Aloni/FLASH90)

Cabinet ministers on Sunday approved a NIS 110 million ($35.4 million) plan to upgrade infrastructure at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

The plan aims to encourage more visits to the site by improving public transportation accessibility, developing new educational programs, and continuing existing development projects.

The funds earmarked of the plan — brought by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett —  come from the budgets of the Prime Minister’s Office and the ministries of defense, finance, education, interior, transportation, tourism, public security, culture and Sports, immigration, and science and technology.

“The Western Wall is one of the holiest and most important sites for the Jewish people, and millions of visitors from all over the world visit it regularly,” Bennett said, according to a statement released by his office.

“The five-year plan we have just approved in the cabinet will continue to upgrade the infrastructure needed for the site, and will help encourage the arrival of many more visitors,” he said.

The new plan was not related to the so-called Western Wall compromise, which would see the formalization of a pluralistic prayer pavilion.

Then-education minister Naftali Bennett delivers a statement at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, on December 25, 2016.(Hadas Parush/Flash90, file)

The Times of Israel reported last month that Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana had decided together with Bennett to put off plans to implement the agreement frozen by the previous government in 2017.

The arrangement, long a point of contention between the government and Diaspora Jewry, was negotiated between Israel and Diaspora leaders over more than three years and was approved by the Benjamin Netanyahu-led government in 2016. However, it was indefinitely suspended by Netanyahu in 2017, under pressure from his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners.

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