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Jerusalem Mayor: Cable Car Stop in Palestinian Neighbourhood Will Clarify 'Who Really Owns This City'

'Our ties to Jerusalem can never be unraveled,' Nir Barkat says in video about his plan to provide easy access to tourists sites by cable car, noting that the cable car will serve not just economic and tourism needs, but also ideological goals.

by Nir Hasson Aug 25, 2016    Haaretz
Siloam Pool, where pilgrims would have been able to ritually purify themselves before ascending to the Temple.Ariel David
Jerusalem’s planned cable car will include a stop in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, so that riders will “understand who really owns this city,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat told Likud party activists recently.
According to the municipality’s published plans, the cable car will have four main stops: the First Station complex in southern Jerusalem; the Kedem Center, which belongs to the right-wing organization Elad, near Silwan; the 7 Arches Hotel on the Mount of Olives; and the churches of Gethsemane, near the Old City’s Lions Gate.
But Barkat mentioned a fifth stop – the Siloam Pool, deep in the heart of Silwan and some 500 meters from the Kedem Center – in a video clip published on his Facebook page last week. In the video, the mayor addresses a group of Likud activists he is conducting on a tour of Jerusalem.
Both stops, the Siloam Pool and the Kedem Center, would be inside the City of David national park, which is run by Elad. Barkat said the Kedem stop will be the most important, as cars will depart from there in three directions – to Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives and Siloam.
The route of the planned Jerusalem cable car.
He also said that the cable car will serve not just economic and tourism needs, but also ideological goals.
After describing the archaeological effort needed to expose the steps leading from Siloam to the Temple Mount and his plan to repair the pool, he added, “I want to enable Jews and non-Jews to recreate this experience. Anyone who wants to immerse [in Siloam] and then go up toward the Temple Mount experience, anyone who does this will know exactly who the owner of this city is.
“When they have this experience, even leftists get totally confused, because they understand that this is real, and our ties to Jerusalem can never be unraveled. For this experience, it’s also necessary to create a means of transportation.”
Barkat said he wants “to bring 10 million tourists who will all get to these places. Without the infrastructure of trains, cable cars and so forth, we won’t be able to experience this unique experience. To bring the wider world, to understand who really owns this city – all this infrastructure is intended for that.”
Jerusalem Mayor Nir BarkatEmil Salman
Barkat has been trying for years to get the cable car built, as he considers it an ideal solution for an area rich in tourist sites. He and his planners argue that the cable car will significantly reduce the use of private cars and buses, thereby reducing both traffic jams and pollution.
But the project is liable to be politically controversial, since the cable car would operate almost entirely in East Jerusalem, near the Temple Mount and various Christian holy sites. About 18 months ago, the French company Safege withdrew from the project, apparently following a request by the Palestinian Authority to the French government.
The project is also likely to spark opposition from environmentalists and preservationists. According to the municipality’s estimate from two years ago, the project would cost some 125 million shekels ($33 million).
The Jerusalem municipality declined to comment on Barkat’s remarks. But it said it is working on the cable car plan, and when the plans are ready, they will be submitted to the relevant planning committees. It added that the cable car, like the light rail project, is meant to improve access to the city’s tourist sites.
Nir Hasson
Haaretz Correspondent