As court debates controversial Jerusalem cable car, ministry voices opposition
The High Court of Justice will meet on Sunday to consider petitions against the controversial construction of a cable car in Jerusalem that would carry passengers through the Old City.
Ahead of the session, the Transport Department said it opposed the plan. In a statement issued on Friday, the ministry headed by Merav Michaeli of the Labor Party said: “Our position is that the cable car has no important transport role, and evil [it causes] will exceed the benefits. He noted the “great sensitivity to the damage that the project will cause to the landscape”.
Construction of the cable car will require the construction of huge pylons along the route, with critics warning that it will irreversibly alter the city’s unique and historic skyline.
The Jerusalem municipality is backing the project, saying it will reduce road blockages in the area and attract tourists.
The project received the green light from a previous Likud-led government in 2018. Preliminary excavation work began in April this year, although the court is still considering the petitions.
The cable car, for which the government has already budgeted 200 million shekels ($ 55.2 million), is expected to extend from the First Station cultural complex in the south of the city to the Dung Gate in the Old City, which is the closest entrance to the Wall, Judaism’s most revered prayer site. Mount Sion will host the only station along the way. A maintenance depot is to be built in the Abu Tor district.
The project’s funders insist that it will be a tourist attraction and help reduce traffic jams caused mainly by tourist buses.
But critics of the plan say the cable car will turn Jerusalem’s most valuable historical views into a theme park. An analysis of traffic data released in July last year appears to undermine the other major claim made for the cable car, which is that it will ease traffic jams along the old city walls. The analysis suggests that an increase in shuttles would be a better, faster, and cheaper way to transport tourists from southern Jerusalem to the Dung Gate.
In a final attempt to stop the project, opponents petitioned the High Court. The court responded by ordering the government and all other bodies involved to detail the “factual basis” on which the cable car meets the wording of the Town Planning Act – whether it “will truly serve as a tourist attraction” and ” will make a real contribution to tourism in the region.
Sue Surkes contributed to this report.