An Israeli special committee approved plans last Tuesday to build a cable car to ferry tourists and residents to Jerusalem in the hopes of cutting down traffic levels and promoting tourism around the Old City, a walled section of Jerusalem containing numerous holy sites.

The project has drawn criticism from Palestinians over what they view as an attempt to bypass Palestinian areas of Jerusalem and bring visitors directly to Jewish holy sites. It has also been criticized for the adverse effects it might have on Palestinians living directly under the cable car route, with cars traveling just meters over their homes.

Israeli NGO Emek Shaveh has promised to petition Israel’s High Court to appeal the approval.

Emek Shaveh argues that the project will simply shift traffic, rather than easing it, and will have a negative effect on the historic skyline and nature of Jerusalem, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The organization also claims that the project has a purely political agenda, and is intended to strengthen Israel’s hold over East Jerusalem.

“Although this project is presented to the public as a response to transportation and tourism needs, its goal is political,” said Emek Shaveh in a statement, adding that the project “will erode the chances of a historic compromise in the Holy Basin and undermine the rich cultural diversity of the city.”

Jerusalem has been a point of contention in the region since Israel annexed East Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 Middle East war. Israel claims Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital, while Palestinians claim East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, as the capital of a future independent state.

The Old City is home to some of the most important holy sites for Christianity, Judaism and Islam, and has often been the center of controversy due to its religious significance and disputed status.

The shuttle’s proposed route would carry 3,000 people per hour on a four-minute ride from the western side of Jerusalem to the eastern Old City. The plan will cost an estimated 220 million shekel ($63 million). The project is intended to be ready by 2021.

The measure was passed by a temporary government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after two inconclusive elections this year failed to form a ruling coalition.

Written ByGrace Symes

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