Jerusalem Is Becoming a Jewish Disneyland

It is a ‘biblical’  theme park, sending out further tentacles of Jewish housing and enclaves and religious study centers into the Muslim Quarter to which it is connected above street level via protected and exclusive roof paths. The separation   of this enclave from its surroundings is further enforced by the fact  that all entrances and exits to the Jewish Quarter are guarded by border police, providing access, after body and bag scans, only to Jewish residents/settlers, tourists, and the Israeli army and police .

Israel approved on Tuesday a plan to build a cable car that critics say would dramatically alter the scenery of the historic Old City of Jerusalem and help develop a Jewish settlement in a Palestinian neighborhood.
Their aim is reduce the Palestinian population in Jerusalem. Over the next 20 years they are intending to reduce the number of residents in Silwan and make the population 40 percent Jewish.

The European Ashkanazi Zionists turn history  into ruins wherever they go, whatever they touch. They are not a part of Holy Land history therefore have no true regard for the sacred history.

The city’s historic image, he cautions, “is about to change” for all time. Indeed, the cable car, will, if implemented, constitute a turning point. The secret of Jerusalem’s distinctive magic will be lost and the city will drown in touristic kitsch, surrounded by towers of Singapore-style magic.

Kimmelman did not suffice with even this frank explanation, which hid behind feigned claims of the need for an efficient transportation solution for the Old City. From his perspective, the cable car – which ignores the existence of the Arab village of Silwan, where one of its giant pylons will be erected, and over whose residents’ homes it will pass – represents the general approach of the Israeli government to the Arab population of Jerusalem and its environs, as part of a brutal strategy that’s intended to make life hard, seize the Arabs’ property and finally force them to leave the city.

Kimmelman came to Israel in mid-July in the wake of an international petition against a plan to build a cable car that’s intended to pass directly from the First Station, in the western part of the city, to the Western Wall in the Old City. Thirty-five leading architects and historians of architecture from the international community joined their colleagues and the conservation societies in Israel to express their vehement opposition to the project.

Over a period of 10 days, Kimmelman met energetically with all those involved, collected data and examined where the high pylons – 15 in number – and the huge boarding stations of the cable car structure are supposed to be situated. Along with proponents of the hasty implementation of the project, he also interviewed people who are trying desperately to prevent the ruination of one of the most beautiful views in Jerusalem, over the Hinnom Valley toward the Old City walls.

In conversation, Kimmelman sounds like a characteristic American pragmatist – businesslike, focused and eschewing flights into complex theories, but at the same time vividly conveying the gist of his approach. The article he published illustrates well, however, why he is not just another architecture critic.

That he writes for The New York Times and that his books are bestsellers also does not explain his transformation into a culture hero. Indeed, an interactive piece he produced in 2015 about the new home of the Whitney Museum of American Art was termed “the most important article in recent architectural memory” by ArchDaily.

Ironically, perhaps, Kimmelman, who was born in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1958, attended elite educational institutions, specialized in medieval art and started his professional life as a pianist and an art critic, ultimately became a kind of journalistic Che Guevara.

As he sees it, architectural criticism is not meant to make do with aesthetic analyses of exorbitantly expensive, iconic buildings; it must take an active part in the struggle for a better and more just world.

After Jewish settlers took over 25 new apartments in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, just south of Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, a large advertisement appeared on the front page of “Haaretz” newspaper congratulating the new tenants on their “Zionist endeavor”.

Indeed, as his article indicates, the cable car in Jerusalem is not the functional transportation solution its advocates claim it will be, but a clear-cut product of the political reality in early 21st-century Israel. Kimmelman’s piece also affords a rare opportunity to understand how the situation in Israel appears in foreign eyes.

Its author is not content with critiquing what he describes as “a fleet of cable cars crisscrossing the locus of sacred sites known as the Holy Basin,” which he says will turn the area into something of a Jewish Disneyland.

As he customarily does, Kimmelman delves into the project’s broader background, which flies in the face of all the accepted rules of historical conservation and has generated an acute protest both in Israel and beyond.

With his wealth of experience, Kimmelman grasped that the idea behind the cable car is above all political in nature, with the purpose of hiding the city’s universal character, so that it “curates a specifically Jewish narrative of Jerusalem, furthering Israeli claims over Arab parts of the city.” Nir Barkat, the former mayor of Jerusalem and now a Likud MK, did not hesitate to admit to Kimmelman that the cable car is a Zionist project aimed at bringing visitors to the City of David quarter, “which is the ultimate proof of our ownership of this land.”

But Kimmelman did not suffice with even this frank explanation, which hid behind feigned claims of the need for an efficient transportation solution for the Old City. From his perspective, the cable car – which ignores the existence of the Arab village of Silwan, where one of its giant pylons will be erected, and over whose residents’ homes it will pass – represents the general approach of the Israeli government to the Arab population of Jerusalem and its environs, as part of a brutal strategy that’s intended to make life hard, seize the Arabs’ property and finally force them to leave the city.

They want all of Palestine

Another principle that arises from Kimmelman’s article and that deserves special attention, is the problem of urban planning based on the “cut-and-paste” method: Ideas are imported to Israel rashly, with no reference to the singular local contexts. The project’s promoters point to examples of cable cars elsewhere, but those places in no way possess Jerusalem’s physical and symbolic significance.

In a conversation with Kimmelman, the planner of the cable-car stations, architect Mendy Rosenfeld, who has not designed even one building of exceptional merit, did not hesitate to compare the cable car stations he’s envisioning to the glass pyramid of the acclaimed architect I.M. Pei at the Louvre. It, too, was initially subjected to public criticism, suggested Rosenfeld, but “now everyone loves it.” But the problem, as Kimmelman notes, is that “Jerusalem is not Paris.”

Even though Kimmelman preferred to quote the harsh criticism voiced by others – among them the architects Moshe Safdie and Gabriel Kertesz and the historical geographer Prof. Ronnie Ellenblum, who are well acquainted with the cable car plan and with its venue – it’s not hard to detect his emphatic opinion about the whole project and its savaging of the landscape. He also referred, in a few short sentences, to Jerusalem architecture overall, leaving it to readers to draw the gloomy conclusions by themselves.

In his brief visit to the city he had no problem identifying the futuristic thrust that has descended on Jerusalem’s planning authorities in recent years. The breaching of restrictions on high-rise construction in all parts of the city, which is intended, in part, to transform the city’s entrance into a huge bloc of office and commercial buildings with 40-story glass towers, looks to him like another major example of planning “cut” from Singapore or Jakarta and “pasted” in Jerusalem.

Perhaps this should be brought to the attention of Shira Talmi Babay, the district planner, who told TheMarker last year that Singapore is the proper planning model for Jerusalem.

The European illegal immigrants usurp the resources in Palestine

The approach that finds high-rise construction to be an easy solution for the problem of density, amplifies Kimmelman’s years-long critique of mechanical, superficial planning that ignores the layers of a distinctive locale.

Planning of this sort is rampant in Jerusalem, one of the world’s most important historic cities. The cable car planners also ignored the singularity of a city of stone and low buildings, which constitutes a world heritage site. Until recent years the city did a relatively good job of preserving the magic of the past, which, together with its multicultural and religious character, drew millions of tourists from every part of the world.

They are not likely to be pleased to see glass towers and shopping centers on their entry into the city. Many of them, it should be recalled, are not necessarily bound for the Western Wall. After all, Jerusalem, as Kimmelman observes, is not only a “Jewish city.”

The article makes for depressing reading. It’s not just that the planning unit in Jerusalem is guided by political interests, but also that the level of its professionalism is not appropriate for a city that, in Kimmelman’s words, constitutes “a global icon of faith and history.”

The city’s historic image, he cautions, “is about to change” for all time. Indeed, the cable car, will, if implemented, constitute a turning point. The secret of Jerusalem’s distinctive magic will be lost and the city will drown in touristic kitsch, surrounded by towers of Singapore-style magic.

Kimmelman’s critique is worth listening to, because it’s based on the kind of broad worldview that is so flagrantly absent in the contemporary Israeli architectural discourse. A conversation with him, together with articles he has written, make possible an examination of Israel’s architectural standing in the global context.