Jerusalem has a problem. Okay, Jerusalem has a lot of problems, but today we’re talking about traffic congestion. Geographically it’s a small city. And when visitors come to Jerusalem, be they foreign or Israeli, they tend to congregate around the Old City.
A planned cable car that can transport up to 3,000 people per hour from elsewhere in Jerusalem to the Old City will presumably alleviate the congestion in that particular part of town, but it has faced intense opposition since being approved in 2019.
The Supreme Court rules
Israel’s Supreme Court on Sunday threw out four petitions against the Jerusalem cable car after determining that those involved in its planning had not deviated from approved plans or made unreasonable proposals.
The decision effectively puts an end to all legal efforts to halt the cable car.
Tourist attraction, or blight on an ancient landscape?
The petitions against the cable car offered various arguments, including the typical political and economic objections. But the only argument that the Supreme Court justices responded to directly was that a cable car is an inappropriate addition to the scenery around Jerusalem’s Old City.
Justice Yosef Elron acknowledged that this is a “complex issue,” but ultimately deferred to the Ministry of Tourism, which considers the planned cable car to be a worthy addition to the Holy City.
The current plans will see the cable car begin at the First Station entertainment and cultural zone. The First Station is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike, built in the restored remains of an Ottoman-era terminus to the Jerusalem-Jaffa railway line.
It will then stretch to a midway station at Mount Zion, before continuing on to a new visitors’ center to be built at the Dung Gate that leads to the Western Wall Plaza.
No doubt the views from the cable car will be spectacular, and a majority of Israelis and foreign tourists will accept this modern addition to an ancient skyline.
But what of traffic?
The other government body involved in all this is the Ministry of Transportation, given that the cable car is a mode of public transportation that is also meant to alleviate traffic congestion around Jerusalem’s Old City.
In Sunday’s ruling, the Supreme Court justices likewise deferred to the judgement of the Ministry of Transportation in this matter, noting that it had received and sufficiently analyzed all the relevant data.
That might sound vague, and those who live in Jerusalem could be forgiven for not entirely trusting the Ministry of Transportation when it comes to traffic planning in the capital.
The petitioners’ argument that the cable car will simply shift traffic congestion from the area of the Old City to the area of the First Station is not without merit.
However, as Justice Elron noted, the various alternatives also all come at a cost, including the alternative of simply doing nothing.