Emek Shaveh’s Public Objections to the Cable Car
The cable car will damage Jerusalem’s Historic Basin. The developers misrepresented the project to the committee and are withholding information from the public
Among the signatories: senior archaeologists and architects and hundreds of Jerusalemites
Emek Shaveh submitted yesterday (31.3.19) to the National Infrastructure Committee its’ objections to the cable car plan. The objections relate to a long list of issues. Our main points: ■ The cable car will damage the Historic Basin of Jerusalem and sites surrounding the Old City ■ The plan was approved outside of standard procedures ■ The project was misrepresented as a public transportation initiative ■ The developers falsely represented the project to the public and the National Infrastructure Committee ■ The cable car will harm the residents of Silwan.
According to the plan, the cable car will depart from the First Station, sail over the Ben Hinnom valley and proceed along the Old City walls, thus damaging the valley’s antiquities and historic landscape.
The process of building and operating a cable car will harm dozens of Palestinian families in Silwan whose homes are located along the planned route of the cable car which is slated to run only several meters above the houses. This not only poses a major safety hazard, but also will create severe noise pollution, be invasive to their privacy, and lower their property values. Residents of Silwan are already suffering from high density, which is only exacerbated by the touristic developments of the Elad Foundation in their neighborhood. These residents will find themselves dealing with a massive touristic project that will only further constrict the public space for Palestinians.
Among the signatories of Emek Shaveh’s public objection against the cable car: Israel Prize winner for Archaeology Prof. Amihai Mazar, world-renowned Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, Prof. Amnon Bar Or, an architect and expert in conservation and restoration of buildings and heritage sites, and Meron Benvenisti, former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, alongside dozens of professionals and hundreds of residents and Israeli and Palestinian public activists demanding to stop the project. Recently, various international architects have also come out with a letter demanding that the Israeli government cancel the project.
The Main Points of the Objections:
The plan will damage the Old City Historic Basin – In general, construction is prohibited in National Parks, other than for specific uses and provided it entails only minimal damage to the landscape and character of the sites. The cable car will damage the unique architectural-historical character and landscape of the Historic Basin, as well as the potential to enjoying the archaeology, ancient architecture and landscape of religious sites. It will also block the view of Mount Zion and the Al-Aqsa mosque.
In addition, not only will the cable car obstruct the view of the Old City walls and the skyline of the city at the Ben Hinnom valley, it will require raising the height of the Kedem Center – its final destination – which will therefore also block the view of the Old City walls from the south.
The Ministry of Transportation: “The Cable Car is Not a Transportation Project” – all the documents submitted by the JDA (the developer) to the National Infrastructure Committee refer to the cable car as a transportation project, whose purpose is to solve transportation problems in the area. The plans submitted to the National Infrastructure Committee read: “The cable car is intended to address the existing access issues in the south/east basin of the Old City, and is part of the transportation system of the City of Jerusalem…” However, the response we received from the Ministry of Transportation to a Freedom of Information Act request suggests the opposite: “The project is a tourism project and not a transportation project, therefore we advise you to refer to the Ministry of Tourism and/or the Jerusalem Municipality”. This means that the cable car will not be integrated with Jerusalem’s mass transit system. The city’s public transportation system does not plan to support it and transport passengers to it, etc. In addition, the cable car won’t be subsidized as public transportation, since that is under the authority of the Transportation Ministry.
The Developers of the Cable Car are Withholding information from the Public and from the National Infrastructure Committee: In response to the request to receive an economic feasibility report for the project under the Freedom of Information Act Request, the JDA informed us that “the document you have requested is an internal document of the [Jerusalem Development] Authority containing financial and commercial information, which was created for purposes of formulating a policy and layout for the advancement of the project. Fully or partially disclosing this document may disrupt the advancement of the project and its execution in the best possible way”. This important information was never presented – not even to the National Infrastructure Committee members when they convened to vote on the plan.
The Plan will Harm the Residents of Silwan: The residents of Silwan will be directly affected by the proposed cable car. Every hour, dozens of cars will pass directly above their homes, at an expected height of only four meters above the residences. This constitutes a significant violation of their privacy and quality of life. In addition, massive pillars will be placed among the densely built houses of Silwan. In some cases, the construction of the pillars will necessitate expropriating residents’ lands, as well as properties belonging to churches and monasteries in the area.
Emek Shaveh’s response: Not only is there no precedent in Israel for a cable car serving as a mode of mass transit, but in the whole world, there is not one case where a cable car serves as the main mode of transportation to an historic and holy city, let alone in a city as large as Jerusalem. Jerusalem is too important to be used as a guinea pig.
Alongside the unprecedented damage to the historic character of Jerusalem and the damage to the residents of Silwan, it seems that the decision-makers and political stakeholders will stop at nothing in their attempt to recreate the city. The main purpose of the cable car is to link the various tourism sites run by the Elad Foundation, first and foremost to the Kedem Center, and form another tier to cement the settlers’ hold on the Historic Basin. This time, everyone and anyone who cherishes Jerusalem will pay the price, regardless of race, religion or nationality. If the plan is approved, it will damage the most important cultural assets that overseen by the the State of Israel.
We hope the committee will be able to see through the smokescreen – that neither tourism nor transportation are the motives underlying the advancement of this plan. We hope the committee will be courageous and professional enough to do the right thing for the city and cancel the entire project.