by Raf Sanchez, The Telegraph, November 6, 2019
Israel’s government has approved a controversial Jerusalem cable car that will ferry thousands of passengers an hour over Palestinian homes in the east of the city to within a few hundred yards of the Western Wall.
The plan, which was given the green light this week, imagines a cable car beginning in west Jerusalem and swooping over a valley towards the Old City, where it will deposit visitors at the 16th-century Dung Gate.
The cars will carry up to 3,000 people an hour and Israel’s government says the plan will boost tourism, relieve traffic congestion, and make it easier for worshippers to reach the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites.
“We’ve waited 2,000 years to return to the Western Wall and it’s impossible that heavy traffic prevents thousands of people from praying,” said Moshe Kahlon, Israel’s finance minister.
But many Palestinians see the plan as an effort to entrench Israel’s presence in east Jerusalem, which most of the international community considers to be Palestinian territory under Israeli military occupation.
The construction is also likely to cause disruption to residents of the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan, who will find the cable being built above their homes. Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, called the cable car plan “an illegal assault on the occupied Palestinian city and its people who have been living there for centuries”.
Other critics have taken aim at the plan not because of its politics but because they believe it will be a modern eyesore that will blight the iconic Jerusalem skyline and spoil views of the Dome of the Rock and the turreted walls of the Old City.
Architects and historians have decried the plan as “Disneyfication” of a historic area sacred to Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Unesco, the global heritage body, has also protested the plan as a threat to the “authentic character” of the Old City.
Opponents of the plan have vowed to sue the government over its decision and the case is likely to be taken up before Israel’s supreme court, potentially heralding a lengthy legal battle that may postpone construction.