A view of the Western Wall, the Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
In a special session of the cabinet held in the Western Wall tunnels complex Sunday morning, the government approved two massive projects to facilitate easier access to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
The first is an ambitious and prestigious initiative that will cost some NIS 200 million to build a cable car from the capital’s First Train Station complex to the Dung Gate of the Old City in order to improve general access to the Western Wall.
The second will be to build an elevator to provide greater accessibility from the Jewish Quarter to the Western Wall plaza.
The government on Sunday approved NIS 15m. for the preliminary stages of the cable car project and another NIS 50m. plan to build the elevator, which has received all the necessary permits.
Currently the only pedestrian access down to the Western Wall from the Jewish Quarter and back up to it is via a long set of stairs. That creates problems for those with limited mobility, as well as for families with strollers.
Access is also available from just inside the Dung Gate, or from two points coming from the Muslim Quarter, although one of these is also via a long staircase and the other requires a lengthy walk, down many stairs, through the Old City market.
The elevator project has been in the works for the last 13 years but has only now been approved.
Construction can begin immediately, however, since all the required permits have already been obtained.
The entrance to the elevator will be stationed on Misgav Ladach Street in the Jewish Quarter and will descend 26 meters to the level of the Western Wall plaza. A pedestrian tunnel, meanwhile, will be constructed from the exit of the elevator to a security check point leading out to the site.
At a later stage, several large underground floors may be built that will include space for a series of shops, public services and passageways.
Should the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv high-speed railway be extended to the Old City, moving stairs would also connect the station to this Western Wall access complex.
The cable car will be routed from the First Station to the Dung Gate and may also extend to the Mount of Olives. It will greatly enhance the number of people able to access the Western Wall and Old City.
It will extend to as much as 1,400 meters, using 40 cars that can hold 10 passengers each and transport 3,000 passengers an hour.
Construction Minister Yoav Gallant, who is responsible for the elevator project, lauded the initiative and said it demonstrates the importance of the Western Wall to the Jewish consciousness.
“Jewish ethics begin at the Western Wall, the very heart of the Jewish people,” said Gallant. “The government of Israel has said today, with a clear and clarion voice: ‘The eyes of the Jewish people have been directed toward Jerusalem and the Western Wall for 2,000 years. Now, the State of Israel is not only declaring that the Western Wall belongs to it, but it is also investing its resources in it.’”
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