Tourism focus at special J’lem cabinet meeting

Ministers approve NIS 350m. for projects including Ammunition Hill, Mount of Olives, biblical sites.

Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem 390 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons / Yydl)
Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem 390
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons / Yydl)
The cabinet held a special meeting at the capital’s Ammunition Hill memorial site to mark Jerusalem Day and the 45th anniversary of the Six Day War, when Jerusalem was reunited.
The fierce battle against Jordanian forces at Ammunition Hill inspired a classic song describing the conquest of the hill, and it became the symbol of the war for many Israelis.
Tourism in Jerusalem dominated the agenda at the meeting, where the cabinet approved NIS 350 million over the next seven years to develop sites and infrastructure in the capital, with a focus on biblical tourism. Israel hosted 2.8 million foreign visitors in 2011.
Eighty percent of them visited Jerusalem and 30% stayed at least one night in the city.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, every million tourists add NIS 5.5 billion to the economy and create 30,500 jobs.
Approximately NIS 20m. of the tourism funding will be directed toward the Mount of Olives Cemetery.
The plan is to renovate 15,000 graves and install 150 security cameras to stop desecration and stoning attacks.
Part of the money will also go to improve the “green lung” of Jerusalem’s parks and open spaces.
The money will be used to develop the Slopes of Mount Scopus national park, next to the Arab neighborhood of Isawiya, which residents oppose because it will stop their neighborhood from expanding.
Netanyahu tasked the Jerusalem Development Authority with overseeing the development of biblical tourism sites. “[The money] will enable us to build biblical sites in the city that will enhance and explain our link to the land of the Bible, to Zion, and also allow millions of people, no less, millions of people to have a direct appreciation of Israel’s heritage as it finds expression in the Bible,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.
Additionally, the ministers approved the construction of housing for soldiers and police, similar to neighborhoods built for soldiers’s families in Maccabim-Reut, Yavne and Rosh Ha’ayin. The Prime Minister’s Office noted that housing for soldiers not only brings young, working people to the community, but also encourages well-paid career soldiers to stay in the area and raises the average salary. This housing will be built on land that does not require the Israel Lands Authority to publish tenders, meaning the approval process will be streamlined.
After financial difficulties at the Ammunition Hill Memorial recently forced the directors to threaten to close it, Netanyahu said on Sunday the government would change its status to make it a national heritage site, which would ensure funding. Ammunition Hill, which hosts 150,000 visitors a year, will receive NIS 20m. over the next three years from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Finance Ministry, the Defense Ministry, the Tourism Ministry, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Ammunition Hill non-profit organization, and the American branch of the Jewish National Fund.
Mayor Nir Barkat touted the improvements in Jerusalem’s education and economic success. He added that the city was experiencing unprecedented growth. For the first time in years, it saw an increase in enrollment in both the secular and the national-religious schools, a sign that non-haredi families are electing to stay in the city, he said.