This week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a $27 billion plan to link the north and south of the country by rail. When complete, the proposed high-speed rail line will run about 400 kilometers (250 miles) from the northern city of Kiryat Shmona to the southern city of Eilat.
“It [the rail line] will also be able to link Israel by train to Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula. We’re working on that too,” said Netanyahu.
The cross-country line is planned to enable the moving of goods from the Eilat port to terminals on the Mediterranean and is expected to include a bullet train segment through the Negev desert running at speeds of up to 250 kilometers (155 miles) per hour. The northern terminus of the current rail system ends in Karmiel in the Lower Galilee. The proposal would require connecting the rail system to Kiryat Shmona, 60 kilometers to the north. Currently, the southernmost station is in Dimona in the Negev, located about 200 kilometers to the north of Eilat. The proposal would require covering that distance via high-speed railway.
Several Jewish sources point to the success of this project as an essential part of geula (redemption). A story is told about Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin, a leading rabbi in Jerusalem in the late 19th century who heard the whistle of the first train to arrive in Jerusalem in 1892 and said, “They are clearing the way for Moshiach (Messiah) and the geula (redemption) is on the way.”
Rabbi Yekutiel Fish, who writes a geula and Kabbalah blog in Hebrew called Sod HaChashmal (the secret energy)
“A high-speed train is precisely what is needed for Passover, when all of Israel is required to bring their sacrifice to the Temple,” Fish told Israel365 News. “ Hashem (God, literally ‘the name’) is preparing the way for the pilgrims to arrive at the Temple.”
Fish explained that a train has special characteristics that make it the most fitting means of transport for pilgrimage.
“Practically, a train is the best means since it can carry many more people without the dangers or traffic jams associated with highways,” Fish said.
Being a student of Kabbalah, though, his practical explanations had esoteric sources.
“The Hebrew word ‘rakevet’ literally means to join things together,” Fish said. “That is the purpose of the pilgrimage feasts: to bring all of Israel together.”
Fish brought additional reasons for the special connection between trains and the Messiah.
“In Gematria (Hebrew numerology), ‘rakevet’ equals 622, precisely the same as ‘har HaBayit’ (the Temple Mount)”,” Fish said.
Though ambitious, the plan for a regional rail system is not unprecedented. Israel’s importance as a land bridge led the British and the French to invest heavily in building rail systems beginning in the time of the Ottoman Empire. The rail system eventually connected Beirut, Lebanon in the north with Cairo, Egypt and Tripoli in Libya. The Israeli port in Haifa and Jerusalem were eventually included by the British after the Second World War.
Even today, trains are considered one of the most efficient methods of transport and are capable of carrying trailers and shipping containers for cargo in addition to passengers.
A high-speed rail system connecting Ben Gurion Airport to Jerusalem was completed with additional branches planned including one that will take travelers to the Donald Trump Station at a Western Wall station.
The proposal plans for the project to be completed by 2040.