The Project of 'Moshe-and-a-half'

This week a very dear man passed away, one of the best chiefs of staff we ever had: Moshe Levy, better known by his nickname 'Moshe v'hetzi.'

This week a very dear man passed away, one of the best chiefs of staff we ever had: Moshe Levy, better known by his nickname "Moshe v'hetzi" (Moshe-and-a-half), so called because of his height. Many people asked where he had disappeared to for the past 20 years; but Levy did not disappear. He simply did not do what his friends did, he didn't jump from the army into politics. He was too straight and modest. That is why he chose to remain on his kibbutz, Beit Alfa, and to exploit his abilities to promote one of the most important projects of the Israeli economic-social infrastructure: Highway 6.

Levy was chairman of the board of the Trans-Israel Highway Corporation (Highway 6) from its inception in 1997. Occasionally, when I wrote about the subject, he would call in order to support me in the long and exhausting struggle to speed up the paving of the road. He was not afraid of the Green organizations, and did not retreat in the wake of their slander and their many petitions to the High Court of Justice. Levy saw the highway as a major project for the benefit of all the country's citizens.

Although the Greens did not succeed in torpedoing the highway, they did succeed in postponing its opening for years, thus causing serious economic and social damage. The economic damage is estimated at NIS 750 million annually. Among their many incorrect claims, the "social organizations" said the highway was going to serve only the wealthy of Tel Aviv, and therefore only its central section would be built, so that talk of a 250-kilometer highway that would connect Merom Hagalil (the Cabri intersection near Nahariya) with the heart of the Negev (near Yeruham) was nothing but lies spread by evil capitalists.

But now, in spite of all the delays, the highway is progressing both southward and northward. A month ago another section was opened, connecting the Sorek interchange and Kiryat Gat. Another section in the South (up to the Maahaz interchange) will be dedicated in May. There is good news in the North too: The work on section 18, between the Iron and Ein Tut interchanges (on the Wadi Milik highway) was resumed after a delay of five(!) years, and from mid-2009 it will be possible to drive from the center of the country to Galilee in half the time. Responsibility for most of the delays in this section lies once again with the Greens, who filed repeated oppositions. They owe an explanation to Galilee residents as to why they delayed their linkup to the center of the country.

The highway was opened to traffic about four years ago, and is currently 110 kilometers long, stretching from the Iron interchange to Kiryat Gat. It is already bringing an important social message to the periphery: It is easier to reach the center. You can live in Harish, a communal settlement that overlooks Wadi Ara, and work in Tel Aviv. You can live in Kiryat Gat and hop over to a play or go shopping in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, thanks to the highway. This is an improvement in the socio-economic situation and the quality of life of residents of the periphery, but to the Greens the quality of life of the swamp dragonfly is more important.

It's a good thing that there are Green organizations, citizens who are fighting to preserve the environment and the landscape. But it's not good to exaggerate. It's not good to oppose every highway and every interchange. As opposed to their claim, arteries such as Highway 6 bring the public closer to nature. They enable hikes and the enjoyment of a new landscape. This is an express highway that bypasses a crowded metropolis - cutting down on traffic jams, thereby reducing the burning of fuel and the discharge of poisonous gases into the atmosphere - and therefore contributes to the quality of the air and the environment. The 100,000 drivers who use Highway 6 daily reduce the traffic on Highways 2 and 4, and therefore lower the number of traffic accidents. The highway has also contributed to a decline in the number of dead on the roads in recent years.

For years many politicians opposed the highway: Yossi Sarid, Ran Cohen, Uzi Landau, Michael Melchior, Zahava Gal-On, Omri Sharon and Dalia Itzik. They used the highway for their own political needs. Today they owe Moshe Levy an apology.