Plan to Build Pedestrian Bridge Over Jerusalem Valley Hits Hurdle

Ben-Hinnom Valley is mentioned in the Bible as the site where kings of Judah sacrificed their children by fire.

The Ben Hinnom Valley in 2012. The bridge will be 197 meters long.
Moshe Gilad

The Jerusalem Municipality and Jerusalem Development Authority want to construct a pedestrian bridge over the Ben-Hinnom Valley in Jerusalem, just south of the Old City.

The bridge would be 197 meters (about 650 feet) long and connect the Abu Tor neighborhood and Mount Zion, crossing 30 meters above the valley. The plan was brought before the local planning and building committee last Wednesday.

Due to objections by opposition councilwoman Laura Wharton (Meretz), the committee’s legal adviser ordered that the proposal be removed from the agenda, since it had been presented at the last minute and there was information missing.

Most of the proposed bridge will pass in an area that was defined as “no-man’s-land” between 1949 and the Six-Day War in June 1967, between Israel and Jordan. The bridge will be a suspension bridge, serving mainly tourists.

Wharton said: “Once again, people at the municipality are trying to rush through a move at the Planning and Building Committee, pouring public money into a project that will raise the ire of the international community. It’s a pity, since there is much work to be done in Jerusalem and there is no reason to invest in projects that will turn the city into an amusement park.”

Tomer Appelbaum

Wharton accused the Jerusalem Development Authority of having wasted “many resources on this delusional project, since Mayor [Nir] Barkat is both mayor and the temporary head of the authority – a position he’s held for three years.

“If Barkat continues in this manner,” she added, “he can save on public relations budgets and wait till the state comptroller gives him prominence in a future report.”

In a statement, City Hall said the matter “had no political elements, since the area has been part of Israel since its establishment [in 1948]. This was not a rush job and the request was put on the agenda because the Pesach recess starts soon. Committee members asked for more time to examine the request, which was submitted shortly before it convened, and that is why they asked for it to be presented at the next meeting. The legal counsel saw this as a reasonable request and recommended postponing the debate.

“The chairman therefore decided on postponement,” city hall added. “The bridge is part of a plan to develop ancient Jerusalem and the municipality will continue to promote it, as well as other plans.”

Ben-Hinnom Valley is mentioned in the Bible (Jeremiah 7: 31-32) as the site where people “burn their sons and their daughters in the fire.”