Politicians take advantage of Israeli apathy for wasteful Kotel cable car

A cable car to the Western Wall? That can wait.

 An illustration of the planned Jerusalem cable car (photo credit: JERUSALEM DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY)
An illustration of the planned Jerusalem cable car
On Monday, the cabinet approved a NIS 200 million plan to build a cable car that will connect the First Station in Jerusalem’s German Colony neighborhood with the Western Wall.
Why? Good question.
The allocation of the funds comes as Israelis have been waiting two months to get flu vaccines, shots that have been available for months in the United States and parts of Europe, but were delayed in getting here. Occupancy in Israeli hospitals’ internal medicine wards is already over 100% and the winter has yet to really get going. Sadly, it’s all about to get worse.
In some cynical way, the government ministers who approved this unnecessary project seem to be sending a message to the public not to worry – when we sit for 10 hours in an emergency room waiting to see a doctor or end up on a bed in a hospital hallway, we can always think about the cable car.
I don’t have anything against the cable car project. On paper, it looks nice and will probably be a much-needed upgrade to the Old City and hopefully improve access to the holy tourist site. Is it needed now though, at a time when there is no functioning government and the country is basically paralyzed? Probably not.
The decision to move this project ahead shows a disconnect between Israel’s politicians and the needs of the people. The people need a government that is going to work for them. They need a government that is going to outline plans to solve the shortage of hospital beds and doctors. They need a government that will present a plan to cut down the number of people who catch infections while in hospitals and then die from them (Israel has the highest mortality rate for infections caught in hospitals in the OECD).
We need a government that will find a solution to civil marriage, build an egalitarian prayer plaza at the Western Wall, pass an IDF draft bill and create plans that will improve public transportation in the country so people can get to work without sitting in endless traffic jams. A cable car to the Western Wall? That can wait.
Amazingly, this disconnect doesn’t seem to bother people. Israelis are caught in political paralysis, but no one is taking to the streets like the people are in Lebanon or Iraq. The entire Middle East is out on the streets protesting government corruption and tax hikes, but not Israelis. People pay lip service to the desire to avoid a third election, but why aren’t they out demonstrating and urging the two Benjamins – Netanyahu and Gantz – to finally make a deal?
This public apathy does not go unnoticed. Politicians know that they can do what they want without paying a price and that is why they do. The streets of Beirut may be full because of a WhatsApp tax, but in Israel, people dying in overcrowded hospitals doesn’t even move the needle.
Keep that in mind in a few years when you ride the cable car to the Western Wall.