After a delay of years, Route 4370 in the Jerusalem area has opened. This road connects the settlement of Geva Binyamin to Route 1, the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, between French Hill and the Naomi Shemer Tunnel, which leads to Mount Scopus. The highway, which has been called the “Apartheid Road,” is divided in the middle by an eight-meter high wall. Its western side serves Palestinians, who cannot enter Jerusalem, whereas the road’s eastern side serves settlers, who can now reach French Hill and Mount Scopus more easily from Anatot, Geva Binyamin and Route 60, north of the city.
The West Bank has many segregated roads, but none of them is divided along its entire length by a wall. The road was built over a decade ago but remained closed due to a dispute between the army and the police over the staffing of a new checkpoint, opened because of the road. The road has recently been renovated by Moriah, the city of Jerusalem’s infrastructure company, even though the road lies outside the city’s jurisdiction and will not serve its residents. The budget for the highway came from the Ministry of Transportation.
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Most of its users are expected to be settlers living north of the city, who come to the city daily to work and study. In recent years, congestion has greatly increased at the Hizma checkpoint, which the settlers go through. For now, the new road will open only between 5 A.M. and noon, when traffic is heaviest. The head of the Binyamin Regional Council, Yisrael Gantz, who took part in the opening ceremony, called the road “no less than an oxygen line for the region’s residents, who work, study and go out for entertainment in the city. In a successful cooperation venture between the regional council, the Jerusalem municipality and the Ministry of Transportation, access to the capital has been revolutionized,” he said.
Part of the work included the erection of a new checkpoint, which will be closed to West Bank Palestinians. Drivers on the Palestinian side will be able to go around Jerusalem without having to enter the city.
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The opening ceremony on Tuesday was attended by Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan. Leon said that “the road is a true blessing for residents of Pisgat Ze’ev and French Hill. Opening this road during high congestion periods will distribute more evenly some of the pressure on existing highways, leading to significant easing.” He added that “in addition to solving traffic congestion problems, we are strengthening the Binyamin Regional Council and inaugurating the natural link between this area and Jerusalem.
Katz said that the road is “an important step in linking Binyamin Council residents to Jerusalem and in strengthening metropolitan Jerusalem.” Erdan added that the highway is an example of the ability to create a common life between Israelis and Palestinians while addressing security concerns.”
The Jerusalem municipality said that “this was a transportation project that came about as a result of cooperation between itself, the Binyamin Regional Council and the Transportation Ministry. The road was rehabilitated by Moriah, with funding from the ministry. It will serve Arab residents, especially those living in the Shoafat refugee camp. It will ease congestion in the Pisgat Ze’ev and French Hill neighborhoods, distributing traffic more evenly.”