Israel’s transportation minister offers Trump a gift: A train station at the Western Wall
Israel’s transportation minister wants to honor President Trump with a railway station near the Western Wall to recognize his recent “brave” decision calling for the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
A railway tunnel to the Western Wall under the Old City in Jerusalem would meander past sites holy to Muslims, Christians and Jews, making such a project extremely controversial.
“The Kotel is the holiest place to the Jewish people,” said the transportation minister, Yisrael Katz, using the Hebrew name for Jerusalem’s Western Wall. “I have decided to name the train station leading to it after U.S. President Donald Trump, in recognition of his brave and historic decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”
The Western Wall abuts the Temple Mount, also called the Noble Sanctuary — one of the most sacred sites for Judaism and Islam, and the focus of Palestinian protests in July when Israel announced it would install cameras at its perimeter after two police officers were killed in a terrorist attack.
The chance that the faithful of either religion or the doyens of Israel’s Antiquities Authority would approve of the project hovers somewhere near zero.
It is common for Israeli construction projects to be delayed for years due to the unwanted attentiveness of the antiquities czars. Recently, the attempt to expand the city of Beit Shemesh, a commuter hub between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, came to a complete halt due to the discovery of a 1,500-year-old monastery compound.
The Western Wall is estimated to be about 5,000 years old. It is Israel’s most popular tourist site, drawing about 11 million visitors a year.
Katz, who has a knack for drawing attention to himself, declared the prospect of extending the proposed Jerusalem-Ben Gurion International Airport express train to the wall the “most important national project for the Transportation Ministry.” He instructed his staff to put it at the top of the ministry’s planning and budget priorities.
Katz also once proposed the construction of an artificial island off the coast of the Gaza Strip, supposedly to serve as a railway connecting Israel and Saudi Arabia. (Saudi Arabia this week blocked Israel’s participation in the Chess World Championship by denying its players visas.)
Katz’s plan calls for construction of a tunnel 170 feet underground connecting Tel Aviv to Jerusalem’s “Donald John Trump Western Wall” station — near the Cardo — Jerusalem’s Roman-era main strip, in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter. A VIP wagon would shuttle celebrities directly from the tarmac at Ben Gurion to the Western Wall station.
On Walla, a news portal, a long list of unimpressed Israelis complained about Katz’s pipe dreams, including a relatively easy to realize one-hour train from Tel Aviv to Be’er Sheba that he promised and never delivered.
Katz’s lively Facebook page filled quickly with commentary.
Some praised the proposal but said that “Temple Mount Station” would be a more appropriate name given the site’s importance. Others complained that by enhancing religious monuments, Katz “is turning Israel into Iran.”
Some were harsher.
“Wow,” wrote David Raz. “Is this suck-up your idea? I hope this ends before we end up naming half the country after him.”
Calling it “a disgusting idea,” Ya’ir Mevorach Sha’ag lamented the lack of a “‘I’m vomiting’ Like button.”
“I have a better idea,” offered Harel Aloni. “Let’s just call it Trump Wall and be done with it. And they say the left sucks up to the world.”
The comments became less printable as they piled up.
On Twitter, Haaretz senior columnist and U.S. affairs analyst Chemi Shalev asked, “Why stop with train station, ingrates? Kotel should be renamed Trump Wall and the praying area - Ivanka Square.”
Tarnopolsky is a special correspondent.
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