Update – The National Infrastructure Committee (NIC) Approved Submitting the Jerusalem Cable Car Plan for Objections

Despite widespread criticism by planning organizations and a petition against the cable car signed by dozens of senior professionals, the National Infrastructure Committee (NIC) decided on Monday, October 29, to submit the cable car plan for the Old City of Jerusalem for objections. Once the plan is submitted, the public has sixty days to present its reservations and objections to the plan.

Since most of the planned cable car route runs through the Jerusalem Walls National Park, the construction of the cable car requires the approval of the council of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA). The council convened on October 14 to discuss whether to approve or reject the project. It is worth noting that although the plan requires the INPA council’s approval, the government can decide to bypass the council, an option which at the moment is not being considered.

The hearing at the National Infrastructure Committee’s council was preceded by a 10-month public campaign against the cable car plan that culminated in a public letter signed by seventy intellectuals and academics, including five Israel Prize laureates, a protest by the Association of Architects and Town Planners and by the Council for the Conservation of Heritage Sites in Israel.

At the discussion, the INPA’s council said that the sensitive context requires that the plan is given serious consideration, and that there is no room for the haste demonstrated by those who have been advocating for the plan. But at the same time, the council did not take a firm position against the cable car plan. During the discussion, two council members said that the cable car is not appropriate for the area, but explained that in light of the difficult transportation challenges in the national park, the cable car is an opportunity for a comprehensive change to the transit problem. The council conditioned its support for the cable car on the full cessation of all motorized traffic en-route to Dung Gate and making the cable car into the exclusive transportation option for the area. In addition, it demanded proof that the cable car would increase the number of tourists to the Old City basin. These conditions require the developers to justify the cable car as an effective means of transportation, not only as a tourism venture.

Background and summary of previous events

The plan to build a cable car between West and East Jerusalem is a government initiative. The cable car aims to connect West Jerusalem to the Old City via Mount Zion, and from there to continue to the Kedem Center at the entrance to the neighborhood of Silwan. As we previously reported, the plan would completely change the arrival route to the Old City basin and the visitor’s experience. Today, visitors to the Old City typically enter from Jaffa Gate, whence they can walk to the Christian Quarter on the left, to the Jewish and Armenian Quarters on the right, or continue straight down into the covered market and the Muslim Quarter. This arrival experience will be altered by the cable car which will transport visitors directly to the Elad Foundation’s tourism hubs at the City of David/Silwan,

and especially to the Kedem Center, which it plans to build across the Old City walls. The Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA), which promotes the plan on behalf of the government, plans to cancel bus routes, change traffic arteries on roads around the Old City, and more.

Beyond the immediate goal of consolidating the Elad foundation’s presence in the area, the cable car plan aims to change the traditional tourist route and experience of the Old City by leading thousands of visitors to tourist centers at the City of David and from there to the Western Wall, thus highlighting the experience of visiting an ancient Jewish city. The new experience is designed to entrench the opinion that that the desired political solution to Jerusalem requires leaving the area under full Israeli sovereignty.

The effects of the cable car on the Old City Basin and the village of Silwan

If it goes ahead, the cable car will be damaging for the Palestinian village of Silwan, located south of the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif and the Old City. Dozens of families who live along the cable car’s route will have to cope with the noise and invasion of privacy caused by cable cars constantly traversing overhead.

In addition, the construction of the columns which will support the cables will  entail expropriating land, and it is still unclear what degree of physical damage will be caused to tall houses or homes located near the Kedem Center.

If the traffic arteries at the entrance to Silwan will be cancelled, the movement of the residents will be dramatically compromised. These are significant changes to the lives of residents who will be trapped in a dead-end road near the Old City walls. The traffic to the various parts of the city from east and west will also be limited.

For Emek Shaveh’s position paper on the cable car, click here.