During my visit to the British Parliament last week, I heard concern from a number of members that Jerusalem’s new light rail system was built as a “tool of Israel’s apartheid.” This type of claim can leave one baffled; where do you start explaining when an intelligent elected official hits you with a claim that is so totally off base? Aside from the issue of priorities, with people being killed daily by the Assad regime Syria, it is the height of hypocrisy for world leaders to ignore that massacre and waste their time and effort in seeking out something to pin on Israel.
The city of Jerusalem was first declared the capital of the united Kingdom of Israel by our mighty King David some 3000 years ago. At its center, on Mount Moriah, David’s son Solomon built the Temple, which became a place of gathering for the entire nation of Israel three times a year. Ever since, this city has been the focal point of Jewish prayer around the world. In Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, part of the city was captured by the British-trained Arab Legion of Trans-Jordan, which held the city for 19 years, until it was again united in the miraculous Six Day War of June, 1967. During the 19 years of Jordan’s illegal occupation of Jerusalem, Jews were barred from access to the city’s holy sites. Jewish doctors and nurses were massacred while trying to reach the Hadassah Hospital, located on then-isolated Mount Scopus.
Only after Israel’s Defense Forces reunited the holy city were members of all religions again allowed access to their holy sites (aside from the Temple Mount, which maintains limited access for non-Muslims).
Jerusalem today is a city with total population of about 760,000 people – about 65% Jewish, and the remaining 35% comprised of Muslims, Christians, and others. Anyone who visits the city will see a mix of people from all ethnic backgrounds and all religions partaking in all aspects of the city’s culture and commerce. Like it or not, apartheid is not a fitting description for the reality of Jerusalem today.
The city of Jerusalem, capital of the State of Israel, incorporated its light rail public transportation system late last year. The light rail is intended to relieve traffic congestion, and spare the city from the air pollution emitted from the cars and buses that it will replace.
Three years of its construction were very bothersome to the residents of and visitors to Jerusalem because it made transit within the city even more difficult and slowed traffic, with many roads closed and much traffic redirected. When the work was finally completed, I believe that most of Jerusalem was happy with the results.
The light rail is now 14 KM long with 23 stops. It starts in the Pisgat Zev neighborhood in the north and runs though Beit Hannia and Shuafat, passes by the Old City through the center of town, runs along Jaffa Street past the central bus station and ends at Mount Herzl.
The track passes though and stops in both Jewish and Arab neighborhoods. I have taken the train and noticed that both Jews and Arabs are regular commuters. All of the train’s signs, tickets, ticket machines, and public announcements are made very clearly in both Hebrew and Arabic. Signs of station names are posted in both Hebrew and Arabic.
Knowing the facts firsthand, it is strange for me to hear discussions in British Parliament about the light rail being segregated and a “tool of apartheid.” Why, I ask, do people buy into such baseless libel and propaganda?