Palestinians say it is an attempt to literally pull their hopes for a future capital in East Jerusalem from under their feet.
By Ruth Eglash and Loveday Morris | The Washington Post | Jan 25, 2019
If you are Israeli or Jewish then you feel very excited by what is shown here. But the history of Jerusalem does not only belong to the Israelis.
— Yonathan Mizrachi, an Israeli archaeologist and executive director of Emek Shaveh, an Israeli cultural heritage group
The main road winding through the densely built Arab neighborhood of Wadi Hilweh is like many others in Jerusalem, lined with convenience stores and often crammed with traffic. There’s little clue to what is happening just yards below the pavement and under the floors of surrounding houses and apartment blocks.
For five years, Israeli archaeologists, supported by a nationalist Jewish organization, have been digging a tunnel here. Their aim is to uncover what they say was once an important thoroughfare used by worshipers some 2,000 years ago to reach the Jewish holy temple.
Developers envisage an archaeological attraction that would lure millions of visitors keen to walk the same stones as ancient pilgrims, or perhaps even Jesus. Private donors have contributed $75 million for the Pilgrim’s Road project, and the government has put up $13 million more.
The government also plans to build a cable car to ferry up to 3,000 people an hour into the area where Jerusalem’s holy sites are concentrated, dropping visitors off outside the tunnel’s entrance.
But in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, where land and each side’s historical connection to it is front and center, the endeavor is inevitably mired in controversy.