Planned zipline over Occupied-East Jerusalem draws controversy

PNN / Bethlehem

Right-wing NGO Elad has been approved by the municipality to proceed with the initial construction stage of a new 784-metre long zipline over occupied-East Jerusalem.

Critics have warned that the attraction will make the historic and religiously significant area into little more than a tourist trap, ‘a cheap amusement park with attractions like in Disneyland’, and will deface the historic skyline of the Old City and its surrounds.

The planned route will take patrons from the Armon Hanatziv promenade to the Peace Forest basin in the Abu Tor neighbourhood, only a short distance from the Old City.

Peace Now, an Israel based NGO denouncing settlement building, condemned the zipline as it would be ‘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.’

Quoted by Haaretz, Peace Now spokesman Hagit Ofran further criticised the decision made by the municipality to approve construction.

‘The Jerusalem municipality made a snap decision while bypassing planning authorities’ Ofran said, ‘giving Elad a building permit without informing the public or asking for its input. They completely ignored any orderly urban planning process.’

Approval for the zipline, which will include the construction of two 4-metre high concrete pillar to be clad in wood to support the zipline, was provided on the basis of a 40-year old law intended to protect the open spaces and natural parks of occupied-East Jerusalem by promoting the foundation of sports or recreational facilities.

Elad’s operations in East Jerusalem include the running of touristic and excavation missions to archaeological sites.

These tours are often run though their subsidiary, City of David.

An article published by The Guardian earlier this year criticised the City of David organisation as being ‘operated by a settler organisation “promoting an exclusively Jewish narrative, while detaching the place from its Palestinian surroundings.”’

The article sites a report published by the European Union which warned that settler-run organisations like Elad are using archaeological and tourist projects ‘as a political tool to modify the historical narrative and to support, legitimise and expand settlements.’

‘East Jerusalem is the only place where Israeli national parks are declared on populated neighbourhoods,’ the report warned.

Other upcoming projects in East Jerusalem are to include a cable car to be built, running from the ‘Ottoman-period train station, going through Mount Zion to the City of David and Silwan,’ according to Haaretz.

Additional projects include a rope bridge to conjoin the Hinnom Valley between Abu Tor and Mount Zion.