Plans for a tram to the Kotel (Western Wall) have a serious flaw: Kohanim (Jewish men from the priestly caste) will be unable to use the system.
The tram will connect the Jewish Quarter of the Old City with the Kotel Plaza, making the steep approach easier for the ten million people who visit the site every year. The cable car will run between the station compound, through the Mount of Olives, all the way to the Dung Gate. The planned route is about 1,400 meters long, with 40 cars able to carry 10 passengers each, at 21 kilometers per hour. The system can carry 6,000 people per hour and will make the area accessible to people with disabilities.
But one group of people who will not be able to use the cable car are Jewish priests. Member of Knesset Uri Maklev met with the head of the Jerusalem Development Council Ayal Chaimovsky on Wednesday to discuss the plans. The problem is that the planned route requires walking over an area that was an ancient cemetery. Kohanim are forbidden from coming into contact with a dead body or entering a cemetery.
“The priests want to reach the Western Wall no less than the general public,” Maklev said in a statement. “We can not exclude the priests from the use of a cable car that will solve the problem of accessibility to the place. We are working to find a solution and should be able to find a solution.”
Maklev’s intervention came after many Kohanim requested his help.
The cost of the entire project is NIS 200 million, most of which will come from the Ministry of Tourism, and the cable car is expected to begin operations in 2021
The project has already proven to be problematic as the original construction company based in France pulled out after an order from the Paris Ministry of Foreign Affairs due to the planned route passing through sections of Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinian Authority.