Ministries aim to close Jerusalem's Old City to traffic

Change designed to remove traffic congestion and make visiting the Old City a more pleasant experience.

old city 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerezolimski [file])
old city 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerezolimski [file])
The Tourism and Transportation ministries are working toward closing Jerusalem's Old City to transportation, both private and public. The change is designed to remove traffic congestion and make visiting the Old City a more pleasant experience. The directors-general of both ministries decided recently to establish a joint committee for adapting the transportation infrastructures in and around the Old City to current needs, as is done in central tourist cities around the world. The decision was made due to the constant increase in visitors touring the Old City, and the future evaluations for continuous growth. "The roads system and the parking facilities within the Old City are not prepared to meet the increasing demands of tourists arriving to visit the Old City," Tourism Ministry Director-General Shaul Tzemach said Monday. "This situation leads to more vehicles being parked illegally and interfering with... public transportation, and it simply damages the quality of the visit to the area rather than contributing to the general movement of vehicles." Tzemach added that these roads would be better turned into promenades. Transportation Ministry Director-General Gideon Siterman said the ministry was working with the Jerusalem Municipality in an attempt to find permanent solutions for the procedures for private and public vehicles in the Old City, including the need to lower the fees in parking lots around the area. Among the issues to be examined by the joint committee - which includes representatives of the Jerusalem Municipality - are the addition of passenger drop-off lanes, the broadening of existing traffic routes and the addition of alternative routes into the Old City. "The Transportation Ministry constantly holds talks with the different governmental ministries to ease traffic congestion in the city centers and to enable a better quality of life, mainly for the residents of the big cities," Siterman said. "The movement of private and public vehicles inside the Old City constitutes a serious nuisance for the visitors to the tourist sites and damages deeply the experience of touring the area. Jerusalem is one of the most important tourist sites in the world, and as such, it is appropriate that a visit to it should be a unique and special event," Tzemach added. The two ministries have also agreed to develop the tourist infrastructures of the area around Lake Kinneret, Safed, Nazareth, Haifa and Beit Shemesh.