Making Travel Easier...
For Family and Special Needs Travelers...
Israel has long attracted visitors of many faiths. Thanks to recent construction and renovation efforts, physically challenged travelers can tour certain areas that were previously off-limits.
Jerusalem's Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in non-COVID years, is normally visited by 10 million visitors each year, but parts were inaccessible to wheelchair travelers. As part of a multi-year project, the East Jerusalem Development Company (PMI) has worked to provide better accessibility to all three of the city’s holy sites, including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Temple Mount, and the Western Wall. Ironically, the virus might have helped speed up progress. Due to diminished tourism during the pandemic, the PMI has been able to take this time to continue making Jerusalem more accessible by adding another kilometer of accessible roads and adding elevators to The Tower of David. They claim that the results have made Jerusalem’s Old City one of the world’s largest accessible historic cities.
The work, which has lasted approximately ten years at a cost of 20 million NIS and in cooperation with seven government agencies, included a mission to enlarge the narrow and picturesque alleys of the city, which can now accommodate wheelchairs, carts, and special emergency vehicles. The coronavirus helped by emptying the alleys of hikers for about two months, allowing the Ministry of Jerusalem and the East Jerusalem Development Company to open another kilometer—a fifth kilometer on Chain Street from the corner of David Street to the Temple Mount—that would have normally taken a year.
Local tour groups are learning to guide accessible groups under the guidance of Ami Meitav from the Public Cooperation Division of the Jerusalem Development Company. Meitav said that thanks to requests facilitate access for the elderly and the disabled, they added building ramps at the entrances to residential complexes, building additional stairs at the entrance to houses, adding a short stair railing and more.
“In recent years, the Old City of Jerusalem has become one of the most accessible ancient cities in the world,” said Moshe Leon Mayor of Jerusalem. “We have the [mandate] to make the Old City and its alleys accessible to anyone and without difference. Jerusalem is renewed for the benefit of all its residents and visitors.”
The Mishnah and the Talmud established regulations and laws for the operation of public area in Jerusalem, including that they would ‘repair the roads and streets that were permeated during the rainy season and thus closed to pilgrims…[they are now] accessible and coordinated for all tourists at the highest level,” said Minister of Jerusalem and Heritage, Rabbi Rafi Peretz.
“Of course, I welcome the project,” said Yad Sara CEO Moishe Cohen. “The accessibility allows access to almost anywhere and…complex work has been done to adapt to the needs of travelers with disabilities…including the topography, sacred sites of various religions…as well as special historical sites…the section of Roman-tiled street on Christian Street and steep stairs where the accessibility angle is [so] sharp… an attendant is needed to help support the chair. We are [also] working to add accessible services in the Jaffa Gate area, adjusting signage to the eye level of a person sitting in a wheelchair, provide scooter rentals and more.”
PMI has produced a printed guidance map available free of charge at the tourist information center at the Jaffa Gate, along with a free dedicated app, available in nine languages, that allows real-time navigation between alleys and sites via a GPS-based system similar to Google Maps.
App demos are available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caCxEfuw5gI&feature=youtu.be.
For Android: http://play.google.com/store/apps/detaisl?id=pami.accessibility.sayyes
For Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/il/app/accessible-roads-jerusalem/id1434672106?mt=8
In addition, throughout the next two years while renovations continue, the Tower of David Museum will remain open for the public (within the guidelines of the Ministry of Health) with temporary exhibitions, with guided tours of the history, the communities, and the archaeology of Jerusalem, as well as cultural activities. More than half a million people visited the Tower of David Museum last year and the addition of two new elevators will make the ancient citadel accessible to all.
.My name is Dawn M. Barclay. My parents were owners of Barclay Travel Ltd. and later, Barclay International Group, and I basically grew up in the travel industry. Along with stints working with both companies and a few other travel-related firms, I've served as a senior editor/reporter at Travel Agent Magazine, a contributing editor at Travel Life, the meetings/incentive editor at Travel Market Report and now, the Contributing Editor for Family Travel and Special Needs Travel at Insider Travel Report. My articles have also appeared in the pages of Jax Fax, GoNomad, and Successful Meetings Magazine. I also write psychological thrillers and romance as D.M. Barr.