Israel’s transportation minister is working to advance his plan to dig a railway tunnel beneath Jerusalem’s Old City that would pass near sites holy to Jews, Christians and Muslim and culminate at the Western Wall at a station named after President Donald Trump.
Yisrael Katz, a senior cabinet official who also serves as Israel’s intelligence minister, has proposed a plan that includes the construction of two underground stations and excavation of over 2 miles of tunnel beneath downtown Jerusalem and under the Old City.
If completed, the project would extend the high-speed rail line that is soon to be opened in Jerusalem from Tel Aviv to the Western Wall, which is the holiest site where Jews can pray.
According to The Associated Press, the route “will run close to–but not directly under–the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where tradition holds that Jesus was crucified and buried, and a contested holy site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. Previous excavations by Israel near the holy site–the spiritual epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict–have sparked violent Palestinian protests.”
The proximity of the route to such meaningful locations is likely to garner vehement resistance from the Palestinians, as well as neighboring Arab countries and the international community.
On Wednesday, Transportation Ministry spokesman Avner Ovadia reported that the project is estimated to cost more than $700 million and would take four years to complete if it is approved.
Katz presented his proposal in a recent meeting with Israel Railways executives and has fast-tracked it in the planning committees, according to his office.
Katz contends that a high-speed rail station would allow passengers to reach the “beating heart of the Jewish people–the Western Wall and the Temple Mount.”
Earlier in December, Katz, who is a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said he proposed naming the station at the project’s terminus after Trump, “for his brave and historic decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”
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