'Insane' cable car over Jerusalem's Old City gets green light

A cable car that will run through the Old City of Jerusalem has been given the go-ahead after the Supreme Court gave the controversial project, branded an "eyesore" by critics, the green light.

Palestinians have long opposed the plans, arguing that the aerial lift will erase the heritage of the land and ruin the vistas over the ancient city.

In 2019, the Israeli government approved the idea, prompting opponents to launch a court battle that they said was intended to prevent the holy site from being turned into a "Disneyland"-type attraction.

Up to 3,000 tourists per hour can be shuttled in the cable car in a four-minute ride to East Jerusalem, passing metres above the homes of Palestinians.

The developers insist that the $US63 million cable car will promote tourism to Jerusalem's Old City and alleviate the often heavy congestion on the roads. The route of the cable car, however, would force tourists to bypass the neighbourhood of Silwan at the foothills of the city.

Campaigners have long complained that bypassing the areas would remove the Palestinian context from the journey to the Old City and tourists would feel like they were immediately entering a Jewish city.

It would also affect Palestinian traders, who would lose key footfall traffic.

"What's left now is the public struggle to stop this insane project," Hagit Ofran, of Israel's Peace Now group, which opposes the plan, tweeted after the court's decision. The cable car project is one of several that Israel is planning for ancient Jerusalem that campaigners have condemned as turning the historical site into a theme park.

The other plans that have not yet made it to court include a half-mile-long zip line that will drop tourists into the Peace Forest (which will become a camping site) and a pedestrian suspension bridge.

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The flames were fanned when Elad, a Jewish settler organisation, began partnering with the government to help develop the series of attractions.

Opponents of the proposal have frequently cautioned that the cable car could heighten tensions if it blurs the division between West and East Jerusalem and strengthens Israel's claim to the entire of the city.

Critics of the plan say that the cable car scheme, as well as the other projects for the ancient city, had their planning permission granted behind closed doors - a claim that built the basis of the court case for the cable car.

Yesterday, a three-judge panel unanimously ruled that proper planning procedures had been followed and that they would not intervene in the government approval of the project.

The Telegraph, London

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