Israeli gov't to invest NIS 500 m. in Jerusalem projects

The government approved a five-year investment program, which includes various projects to be carried out to strengthen the city in academia, employment and tourism.

 The Old City of Jerusalem (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Old City of Jerusalem
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A number of initiatives, worth close to NIS 500 million were approved for Jerusalem projects at Sunday’s cabinet meeting at the Western Wall tunnels in Jerusalem.

According to a statement on behalf of the Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Ministry, the government approved a five-year investment program, which includes various projects to be carried out to strengthen the city in the fields of academia, employment and tourism.

In addition, budgets will be invested in construction and development operations of the Western Wall Plaza and the Western Wall tunnels, including the excavation and preservation of archaeological findings, upgrading infrastructure and transportation services as well as expanding educational activities for students, immigrants and soldiers. The special meeting took place in honor of Jerusalem Day and by invitation of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister Meir Porush.

What will the plan focus on specifically?

The plan will focus on a number of key areas, including local and international tourism, development of physical infrastructure including improving traffic and accessibility to the Old City, improving traffic in general, maintenance issues, economic and business development, the development of open space and national parks while preserving nature and other projects.

 ISRAELI FLAGS flap in the wind on the Mount of Olives, overlooking the Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount. (credit: OLIVER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) ISRAELI FLAGS flap in the wind on the Mount of Olives, overlooking the Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount. (credit: OLIVER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

NIS 476m. were allocated for this project, which is set to be approved by the Jerusalem and Heritage Ministry. Annually, the government’s Jerusalem Affairs Minister will present the multi-year and annual budget data and the data of the implementation of the program.

The Tourism Ministry announced it will increase the budget for encouraging visits to the Western Wall in 2023-24 to NIS 8m. (from NIS 4m.).

A number of entities joined together to make Jerusalem’s Old City more accessible, in a joint project between the Tourism Ministry, Jerusalem and Heritage Ministry, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Jerusalem Development Authority and in the implementation of the East Jerusalem Development Company (PAMI).

Another part of this five-year program is to upgrade the infrastructure and encourage visits to the Western Wall Plaza, to a sum of NIS 14m. (from a number of ministries). According to the Tourism Ministry, between the years 2015 to 2022, the number of visitors to the Western Wall increased from 10 million a year to about 12 million (in 2019).

In addition, the government approved the establishment of the Am Olam center in Jerusalem at a total cost of approximately NIS 60m., and will include an interactive learning center, a permanent exhibition, changing exhibitions and areas for educational workshops. This educational center already partially exists in the Western Wall Plaza and offers virtual tours displayed on the ancient walls of the city.

In the first phase, an interministerial steering committee will be established within 30 days, headed by Director-General of the Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Ministry Assaf Yazdi, and will be attended by representatives from the Heritage, Diaspora Affairs and Finance ministries to “determine the ongoing management and operation model of the project and manage the budget for its operation,” according to a statement.

HERITAGE MINISTER Amichai Eliyahu said his ministry would invest over NIS 100m. in the “development of preservation of the heritage infrastructure, the strengthening of tourism around the city’s historical sites and the creation of innovative heritage spaces that will convey the story of Israel’s capital for thousands of years.”

NIS 16m. will be invested in the excavations of the Antiquities Authority in the City of David National Park complex “to uncover ancient Jerusalem,” a statement reads. The Heritage Ministry will invest about NIS 120m. in projects in Jerusalem during the next two years.

Aliyah and Integration Minister Ofir Sofer announced his ministry’s collaboration: In the form of collaboration with the Jerusalem Municipality and the Jewish Agency, the State will encourage young olim 18-35 to move to Jerusalem. This investment will cost NIS 95m. from Sofer’s office as well as others in the next three years, for a total of NIS 31.5m. annually.

Sofer said that it is “an excellent program. The ‘Young people immigrating to Jerusalem’ program will strengthen the city in all aspects, economic, Zionistic and demographic.”

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion added that “Jerusalem is the largest immigrant-receiving city in Israel. We invest heavily in immigrants and encourage immigration to the city from all over the world.”

One of the main beneficiaries of these projects will be the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. The Reform Movement said that “the government continues to decide on sectoral budgets instead of taking care of the entire Israeli public. The sectoral budget is being given at the Western Wall, the site that is supposed to provide an answer to the entire Jewish people, including the different religious streams, but instead includes a separate square that functions as an ultra-Orthodox synagogue according to the vision of the Rabbi of the Western Wall. The egalitarian prayer plaza that serves many in Israel and in the Diaspora does did receive government budgets.”