Despite my somewhat snarky headline, this is NOT fake news but absolutely real.
First, a few days ago Israel’s Minister of Transport, Yisrael Katz, announced a planned extension of the country’s new fast rail line. The projected final link carries a $700 million-plus price-tag and will traverse the 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the western edge of the city to the Western Wall Plaza completely by tunnel, deep beneath the city of Jerusalem. No time-frame was stated for the project, which still faces permitting and other hurdles, so its realization obviously lies some years away.
The news reports state that the segment will begin at Jerusalem’s brand new main rail station, a cavernous 80-meter-deep installation — it can double as a bomb shelter — near the International Convention Center (Binyanei HaUma). Along its route toward the Old City, the link will serve one intermediate station in the “city center”, near the junction of Jaffa Road and King George Street. And reports place the terminus at the Cardo, “several dozen meters from the Western Wall” (which can only mean the “Lower” or “Eastern” Cardo uncovered by excavations over the past dozen years or so and indeed situated at the rear of the expansive Western Wall Plaza).
And, the kicker: The final station is to be named for the current U.S. president, a little reward for his slavishly following Israel’s agenda on the status of Jerusalem, with total disregard for the nuances of history, international law and world opinion (more on all this in a future post). So, what’s an appropriate “thank you” gift for the man who has everything? In Trump’s case — they truly have their man pegged: of course, put his name on something! Thus, passengers alighting near the Western Wall (in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem) will one day pass through the “Donald John Trump” station.
The Kotel is the holiest place to the Jewish people, and I have decided to name the train station leading to it after US President Donald Trump, in recognition of his brave and historic decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. — Israel Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz
* Watch the 30-second VIDEO teaser produced by Haaretz HERE.
* Watch a 4-minute VIDEO about the larger fast rail project and its main terminal soon to open in West Jerusalem HERE.
Offering a countervailing view of the naming scheme, the decidedly pro-Israel commentator Todd Stern, writing in The Atlantic, explains why — even if one agrees with the president’s recent pronouncement (which I certainly don’t) — “the proposed beatification of Donald Trump, lifting him […] to the pedestal of Truman and King Cyrus, is so tone deaf and mistaken”.
BACKGROUND: The larger fast rail project, scheduled to open later this year, connects Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion Airport and Jerusalem, roughly paralleling Road 1 for much of its route, via a series of viaducts, tunnels and surface track. The line boasts the country’s longest bridge, tallest bridge, longest tunnel, and deepest railway station. With a design speed of 160 km/h (100 mph), it will cut travel time from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to about 28 minutes.
Construction on the system began already in 2001. On a personal note, I well remember hiking at the lower end of the Lifta valley several years ago and happening upon the tunnels even then being driven deep into the bedrock of Jerusalem’s western slopes, destined to carry the line on its final run into the city; likewise, from about 2006 I recall the main terminal as a deep, gaping construction site opposite the central bus station. Today, test runs of the fast rail have already been carried out, with regular service slated to begin in April 2018. (Note: This system should not be confused with Jerusalem’s intra-city light rail line, which began operating several years ago.)
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The story on the Minister’s announcement as it appeared on the Israeli news site Y-Net is found HERE. The Haaretz article (including the above videos) is HERE. (Note: Access to Haaretz content may require setting up a FREE account.)