(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Two thousand years ago, stone bridges connected the Jewish Quarter directly to the Temple Mount, saving the high priests the long trek down and back up. By this time next year, visitors with baby carriages and the disabled could be saving themselves the same schlep if an elevator is approved by the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee.
The elevator, proposed by the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter, would start at Misgav Ledach Street and descend 21 meters to a new pedestrian tunnel. It would greatly improve access for visitors in wheelchairs or those with other disabilities, who now have to contend with several flights of stairs. The pedestrian tunnel would be 60-70 meters in length and pass underneath the stairs near the Aish HaTorah Yeshiva.
At present, the only way for visitors in wheelchairs to reach the Kotel is through the road leading to Dung Gate, which is very steep and has no sidewalks.
“The idea is to make a simple connection between the Jewish Quarter and the Kotel. We want to make the Kotel more accessible to people with disabilities, or even large families with baby carriages,” Daniel Shukuron, the project director from the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter, told The Jerusalem Post
While the idea of an elevator to the Western Wall Plaza has been floated by various groups, it took New York businessman Baruch Klein, a part-time Jewish Quarter resident, to donate the money to get the project moving. An accident in Brooklyn years ago left him bedridden for many months, and continues to give him trouble walking.
“He’d been thinking about building an elevator for a while, and when we sat with him and started to really discuss it, we fell in love with the idea,” Shukuron said.
The elevator would cost between NIS 10 million and NIS 14m.
Construction, which could begin as early as November if all the permits
are approved by the municipality and the Antiquities Authority, would
take 10 to 18 months. The elevator is to be called “Ma’alot Baruch” in
honor of Klein.
Yad Sarah, a volunteer organization that provides
services and equipment to disabled Israelis and visitors, welcomed the
proposal, noting that the Old City is very difficult for disabled
visitors to navigate.
“There are a lot of people in wheelchairs
who want to get to the Kotel, and technically now it’s accessible, but
the stairs really limit most people in wheelchairs,” said David Rothner,
the spokesman for Yad Sarah. “The Kotel is the No. 1 tourist site in
Israel. How is it possible that this site is not accessible to
The development company, a state company that
functions within the Ministry of Construction and Housing, hopes to
offer the elevator free of charge. It is working on ways to allow the
elevator to operate on Shabbat.