In an unusual step, a series of leading international architects and scholars of architecture have rallied around the goal of saving Jerusalem and its ancient sites from a plan to build a cable car to the Old City.
In a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the architects wrote, “It is a matter of international consensus that the choice of a cable car is not appropriate for ancient cities with a skyline preserved for hundreds or thousands of years. Cities like Rome and Athens with millions of visitors a year did not build a cable car. Jerusalem’s ancient landscape is precious heritage to all of humankind. Its religious and cultural values must not be overruled by short-term interests.”
The signatories wrote in addition that “the project is being promoted by powerful interest groups who put tourism and political agendas above responsibility for safeguarding Jerusalem’s cultural treasures.”
Among those who signed the letter is American architect Thom Mayne, the prestigious Pritzker Prize winner who has designed dozens of award-winning buildings; American-Jewish architect Peter Eisenman, who designed the monument to the victims of the Holocaust in Berlin; Israeli architect and international designer Ron Arad, considered one of the most prominent post-modern designers in the world; Israeli-Canadian-American architect Moshe Safdie, who designed a long list of prestigious buildings in Jerusalem; and Spanish Santiago Calatrava, designer of the Chords Light Rail Bridge at the entrance to West Jerusalem as well as a long list of prestigious projects worldwide.
The letter was sent following a public statement signed by 70 Israeli architects, archaeologists and intellectuals against the cable car prior to the plan’s submission to the National Infrastructure Committee. The signatories wrote then: “Jerusalem is not Disneyland, and its landscape and heritage are not for sale. We, who love Jerusalem, who are responsible for the heritage of the people of Israel, who want to protect and preserve the unique character of the city, call on the government to withdraw from the cable car plan and find other transportation solutions for the Old City which would benefit Jerusalem and its residents.”
Emek Shaveh, an organization of archaeologists leading the struggle against the cable car, has said: “The international mobilization for the sake of safeguarding historic Jerusalem underlines once again the fact that Jerusalem and its historic basin is a cultural treasure belonging to all of humankind. It is sad that the State of Israel, which repeatedly emphasizes the Jewish people’s incontestable connection to Jerusalem seeks to damage one of the most important assets entrusted to it, and needs international intervention in order to open its eyes to a project that is so obviously destructive. We remind everyone that no pillar has yet been placed in the ground, and that it is not too late to cancel the cable car project.”