24 April 2019

Jerusalem isn’t known for smooth sidewalks, but the city can now claim four kilometers of wheelchair- and stroller-friendly streets in its heavily visited Old City.

Extensive renovations have now been made on some 90 percent of the streets, sidewalks and alleyways in the Muslim, Armenian and Christian quarters of the Old City, said Gura Berger, a spokeswoman for the project.

“It’s a project that’s been in the works for about 15 years,” said Berger. “It’s all about making an [ancient] city more accessible, but it isn’t easy to do.”

The Old City was built during the days of the Roman Empire, with further construction from the times of the Mamluks and the Ottoman Empire. The result was uneven streets, sidewalks and staircases that are difficult to navigate, according to the municipality.

In those days, the main means of transportation was freight animals, such as camels, mules and horses. The steep paths, narrow streets, and twists and turns of the stoned city of Jerusalem were built according to natural topography; in fact, the difference between the highest and lowest points of the Old City is about 180 feet.

Most of the Old City streets are narrow, often with mini-ramps in the middle originally constructed for wheeling carts used to ferry goods in and out of the neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, said Berger, those ramps do not work for wheelchairs or strollers.

“They’re impossible to navigate with a set of wheels,” she said.

At the same time, the Old City’s quarters are thriving, home to 40 000 residents and dozens of historic sites.

As part of the accessibility project, streets with massive paving stones were evened out, ramps and inclines were created, and hand bars were installed on staircases and difficult passages.

The newly inaugurated, 10-year, $5.5 million project led by the East Jerusalem Development Company has purportedly delivered accessibility to all of the city’s main holy sites including Masjid al-Aqsa and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The project included adjusting four kilometers of streets in the Armenian, Christian and Muslim quarters and installing two kilometers of handrails along staircases.

Whilst it was carried out by the Israeli Occupation municipality in Jerusalem together with the Israeli Tourism Ministry, the Zionist National Social Security Agency and the Israel Antiquities Authority who are all integral to Israel’s Apartheid project and are complicit in activities to Judaize Jerusalem and airbrush its Arab and Muslim heritage, the project may provide some benefits to citizens of the Old City and visitors from around the world embarking on visits to al-Aqsa.

ADAPTED FROM: Times of Israel