The Elad nonprofit group has just been awarded a permit for building the longest zip line in Israel.
The installation will be 784 meters (2,570 feet) long, beginning at Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv promenade and ending at the Peace Forest in the Abu Tor neighborhood.
Opponents of the project claim it will deface the unique view of the historic “basin,” which includes the Old City and its environs, and that it will be a tourist attraction that is incompatible with the city’s character.
Elad, which operates in East Jerusalem, has two main focuses: Settling Jews in the largely Arab Silwan neighborhood; and running tourist and excavation sites. Its chief tourist site is Ir David – the City of David – which it runs for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Elad has also been in a legal battle with the government over a planned archaeology park next to the Western Wall.
The permit was granted two months ago and work is expected to begin soon. The installation will include two 4-meter-high concrete pillars covered in wood, with the cable passing between them. For the sake of comparison, a zip line at the Manara cliff in the Upper Galilee is only 200 meters long.
Elad did not submit a special proposal for constructing the installation, but was granted permission as part of a plan that was approved 40 years ago – a plan intended to preserve open spaces around the Old City of Jerusalem while allowing for the construction of recreational and sports facilities, without requiring specific plans for each one.
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“It’s as if this zip line is like some picnic tables and slides for children,” says Hagit Ofran of Peace Now's settlement division.
“Elad is transforming the most precious asset in this country – the Old City of Jerusalem and its surroundings – into a cheap amusement park with tourist attractions like in Disneyland, and state authorities continue giving them these sites on a silver platter. The Jerusalem Municipality made a snap decision while bypassing planning authorities, giving Elad a building permit without informing the public or asking for its input. They completely ignored any orderly urban planning process,” said Ofran.
The zip line joins other attractions mostly connected to Elad, all of which will completely change the landscape around the Old City.
Other projects include a rope bridge that will span the Hinnom Valley between Abu Tor and Mount Zion, and a cable car that the municipality and Jerusalem Development Authority are promoting. The cable car will start at the Ottoman-period train station, going through Mount Zion to the City of David and Silwan.
Elad said in response: "The Ir David Foundation continues to work with the Jerusalem Municipality, the Tourism Ministry and others to strengthen the touristic anchors in ancient Jerusalem. More than half a million visitors visited the City of David this year and we intend to double the number of visitors in the area within five years, while combining historical, experiential and touristic values."