The Tel Aviv–Jerusalem high-speed railway, connecting Israel’s two largest cities, under construction since 2001 and expected to start regular service in April 2018, made its first test run Sunday, ushering in the almost unimaginable notion of the 28-minute trip from the Mediterranean shore to the City of the Hill.
The cost, $1.8 billion, seems almost trivial compared with the benefits. As Transport Minister Yisrael Katz told reporters: “This will ensure Jerusalem’s status and will give people the ability to live in it and to set up businesses. It will completely change the connection between Jerusalem and the rest of the State of Israel.”
The new high-speed railway will span about 35 miles of electrified double track, running through an extensive system of bridges and tunnels, due to the difficult, mountainous route. Running at the design speed 100 MPH, a passenger entering at the HaHagana Station in Tel Aviv will arrive in the eternal city 28 minutes later, while passengers boarding at Ben Gurion International Airport will be able to head for the Temple Mount in 20 minutes.
Speaking of the Temple Mount, the new, high-speed railway has been criticized by the political left and the Palestinian Authority for passing through about 4 miles of Judea and Samaria, most of it through tunnels: one in the Latrun area, the other just north of Mevasseret Zion. The fight over those 4 miles became so controversial, the German company Deutsche Bahn, which advised Israel Railways, withdrew from the project under pressure from pro-Palestinian organizations.
The Italian municipality of Rho near Milan adopted a resolution in November 2011 expressing “moral and political censure” against Pizzarotti, an Italian company based in Parma, for its involvement in the project. The municipality of Naples asked Pizzarotti to withdraw from the project. This despite the fact that the section of the railway involving Pizzarotti is not located in Judea and Samaria.