Inside the Middle East
August 24, 2011
Posted: 1546 GMT
Israelis gather to board a train to enjoy Jerusalem's light rail system's first day of operation (Getty)
Israelis gather to board a train to enjoy Jerusalem's light rail system's first day of operation (Getty)

After years of delays, hundreds of millions of dollars in cost overruns and stiff political opposition, Jerusalem's ultra-modern light rail project was finally launched this past Friday in what transportation officials are calling "a dream come true".

Originally planned to embark on its debut journey in 2006, Jerusalem's grandiose light rail trains finally opened their doors for thousands of passengers anxious to experience the electric wonder.

"This is a new era for the public system", says Nadav Meroz of the Jerusalem Transportation Masterplan, a body established by city officials in an effort to put an end to major traffic backups across the dense city.

But with costs that escalated like a runaway train to an astounding price tag of $1.2 billion dollars– almost double the original estimate– not all are certain that this was money well spent. "The train has transformed from a mean's to an end to a goal of its own (one) that justifies all means and crushes everything on its way in order to produce fat profits to its planners", residents of one of the impacted neighbourhoods complained in a letter sent to local newspapers.

But transportation officials say otherwise. "This system is going to give service to the people of Jerusalem for decades now. So I believe it is worth it, of course", Meroz tells CNN.

Stretching from Mount Herzl in the south of Jerusalem all the way into the city's northern neighbourhoods, through the city center, and the old city, the rail also passes through the Palestinian east Jerusalem neighbourhoods of Shuafat and Beit Hanina. Construction provoked repeated allegations by Palestinians that the train was Israel's way of taking over their land. Israel captured east Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War and the Palestinians see it as their future capital.

"The aim of the project is to connect the settlements with west Jerusalem" says Ahmed al-Rueidi, head of the unit for Jerusalem affairs at the Palestinian Authority's  presidential office. "They are using our land, Palestinian land. The train is illegal and so are the settlements".

Meroz dismisses the claims. "Go there yourself and ask the people who live there, ask the people who have shops over there. People want to live by the rail, want to open shops there. Everything went up. Without any difference whether you are Jewish, Arabic or Christian, it doesn't matter, it is a project for everyone."

Having completely changed the face of Jerusalem's city center and its formerly buzzing and lively Jaffa Street during construction, planners were forced to defend accusations of  irreparable economic damage to merchants who said they were forced to close shops and restaurants. Some said construction work along the track scared off customers, finding merchants and city residents alike on the wrong side of the tracks.

Chairman of the city traders committee Eli Levi says hundreds of small businesses have closed down and 1,500 workers lost their jobs due to long delays in infrastructure and interruption to street life. "The works were planned without any consideration in businesses and residents that used to shop in the city center." Levi's committee estimates direct damages to merchants at nearly $500 million.

But rail executives believe now that the proverbial train has left the station that even critics will come to appreciate the project despite the years of acrimony.

"We brought the street back to the people of Jerusalem. I believe that this will change dramatically the way people think about the city center," says Nadav Meroz.

Acknowledging the decline of some property prices along the track during construction, Meroz confidently predicts the opening of the line will drive shop owners' revenues up "dramatically."

For the first few weeks of operation train rides are being offered free of charge. The rail is ultimately expected to cater to over 100,000 passengers a day.

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Filed under: Israel •Jerusalem •Palestinians

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Zak   August 25th, 2011 8:34 am ET

East Jerusalem is 50% Jewish... and the whole of Jerusalem is 70% Jewish...
"Palestinians" or more precisely, Arab Israelis in East Jerusalem have the same rights as the Jewish residents there

So it's beyond me why some people consider it possible or realistic to divide Jerusalem and give a section with 200,000 Jews to the Palestinians. Especially as the Jewish birth rate is substantially higher than the arab one and the Jewish share keeps growing.

This kind of thinking will never bring peace.

ids2   August 26th, 2011 9:17 am ET


Jerusalem is a place full of tourists, foreign workers,students, religious jews and palestinians. East Jerusalem was once controlled by jordan , not Palestinians. At the time , Palestinians never had any connection to Jerusalem only certain Villages in the land of Palestine. Jerusalem was always home to all 3 religions. Therali system has nothing to do with east jerudalem, at the moment palestinians in east jerusalem benefit from living as part of israel and are living well, the truth is that many prefer living under israeli rule, but the media will not mention it. im am not criticising cnn, im jst saying that any media doesn't. currently there are inefficient buses running from there , most of these people need to get to jobs and visit friends in other areas, so this is a benefit for them . i live in israel and i speak to arabs everyday, i see 10 or 20 in the street everyday, the situation is similar to europe where we live side by side.

Peper   August 28th, 2011 3:52 am ET

This is fantastic
But the constant decisions without consumer/public involvement is disempowering to the citizen
Let Israel be truly democratic!

miriam   August 28th, 2011 12:54 pm ET

Guy Azriel,

Presuming you have a map of Jerusalem in your office, it should be evident that Shuafat and Beit Hanina are not geographically in east Jerusalem. Beit Hanina is in fact on the western side of town.
The entire route follows or has replaced existing roads used by all residents and visitors to Jerusalem.

MJ Eizen   August 30th, 2011 3:58 pm ET

"the Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem". Typical CNN bias. There is no such place, as there is no country named: "Palestine". As far as Mr. Al-Ruedi's complaint goes, I can assure you that if the light rail had bypassed Arab neighborhoods, he would have complained that the evil Jews were discriminating against the Arabs.

Billy Spudd   September 1st, 2011 1:29 pm ET

Wow...what a surprise! ; an Israeli project that screwed Palestinians over! Who'd have thought that would ever happen?! Did they do any cost-effect testing of substituting the bodies of Palestinians as ties in lieu of prefab concrete or wood?

Joe Josesph   September 2nd, 2011 12:01 pm ET

All this over some trolleys?? This project is even at a lower level than Phoenix's light rail/downtown trolley system. I guess this post was another way to get Israel in the news that isn't so bad.

chan   September 7th, 2011 4:01 pm ET

arabs dont want progress.. because they are bracing their backward civilization oriented by the teachings of islam, the murderous devils cult

roei   September 8th, 2011 11:32 pm ET

who cares?
i live in israel and i realy realy dont care... we have much much bigger things to think about now...

merry bee   September 12th, 2011 7:23 am ET

I'm glad the Israelis could finally finish this project. Why is any space even allowed to persons complaining about land that was conquered and won by another country 44 years ago?

jasper magbanua   September 12th, 2011 8:19 am ET

This is good for religious pilgrimage, travel vacations,
lots of safety, security features, counter measures.

Hope to have like this project possible in my country, the Philippines.

-with out corruptions/ food for everybody, total transparency, every projects/ all budget/ per individual/ persons.

shalum/ god speed

aj   September 12th, 2011 5:10 pm ET

I think its a waste of money 1.2 billon dollars feed gaza

John A   September 14th, 2011 6:45 pm ET

The dollar has devalued, the Israelis (who live from American taxes) now protest that they can't afford to live.

It has been exposed that Obama has knowingly armed Al Qaeda in Libya.

The UN is about to recognize Palestine as an observer STATE.

The world understands Israel has illegally and militarily occupied Palestine with no intention of offering the dignity or self rule to those people.

Now we all know weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was a lie to take the West into an illegal war.

Now we know since the death of Princes Diana (who was to marry a high level Muslim), the CIA have been plotting and funding the Arab spring movement.

Now the CIA has removed Mubarak, there's no more talk of September elections for a free Egypt.

Now the support CNN gave to America government lies and mischief is being exposed. So now is the time CNN stops updating Inside the Middle East.

Israel and its corrupt partner in crime America can no longer hide their dirty washing, as all is becoming too obvious. So now CNN doesn't want to discuss matters any longer.

So the most important issue CNN can think of is a train service in Jerusalem which could never be afforded without bankrupt America sending more taxes to Israel.

Who rules America? The unelected private banks of the Federal Reserve.

Who rules the Federal reserve? Jewish bankers

Who do Jews give their first allegiance to? Israel

Who runs America? Israel

Who funds America's totally dishonest media? ....

Wake up, time is short.

miriam   September 18th, 2011 1:47 pm ET

John A,

Any more conspiracies and false mantras to add?

I suppose you still claim not to be anti-Semitic.

Too bad you again exhibit one of the oldest indications of the condition.

jorgez   September 19th, 2011 2:07 am ET

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Alice Natividad   September 23rd, 2011 9:04 am ET

what does it matter now?

palestine? israel? are we not in the civilized-globalization era? gone is the inhuman colonization age.

just look: european union, usa, asean, so why can't there be a friendly middle eastern union? isn't it about time?

one world – that's what everybody should be working at. ambitious goal? No. it is attainable.

Michael   September 23rd, 2011 12:44 pm ET

To John A.

Which planet did you fall from? I think you have been reading too many scientific books lately. I suggest you start reading Peter Pan, my kids love it, and they are much better for it.

Jury   September 23rd, 2011 3:53 pm ET

I love the rail! It helps a lot and if you see the social win for anyone the money was worth to be spend. In Israel they need more projects like this to leave the boarders in the heads behind... Sadly this is all about power and money and politics. If you would ask the normal people in Israel – they would love to live without fear and in peace!

Shabat Shalom from Germany!

John A   September 28th, 2011 6:38 pm ET

Miriam, it seems you're one of the last political dinosaur who thinks they are well informed after watching TV news.

Try looking for the truth. Try looking at a balance in the news.

Try reading the drudge report. That will make a good start. That's why it has millions more readers than CNN, Fox, msnbc etc..

To Michael, in a wink of an eye your kids will out grow you. Perhaps you should develop some opinions and logical ideas before you embarrass yourself in front of them.

Shay   September 29th, 2011 8:18 am ET

John A,
Israel buged for the year of 2010 is 270 b₪. Comper it to the money that the U.S. gives (3 b₪). Well, this is nothing that sopport. Don't overestimate the U.S. over the world.

ode   September 29th, 2011 3:13 pm ET

john A, you don't need to hide behind the name John. come out with your real name. Abdulrahaman or ....... era of median propaganda is gone, well all know the truth in mid East this days. will the Arabs allow any body to take over any of their old cities? eg Medina.

proud zionist   September 29th, 2011 8:03 pm ET

John Nazi A

you do proud to your idols Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels, as always. Are you sorry that Eichman is dead?

annie   October 5th, 2011 6:13 pm ET

it looks like anything that happens in israel is just another excuse for open season on jews. no we are not all rich money grubbers. we dont eat babies. or sacrifice cows on the alters . get a life you morons. jerusalem is the jewish capital of israel. if the arabs wanted peace and brother hood they could have had it years ago. am yisrael chai

Meir   October 7th, 2011 5:28 pm ET

What Palestine? Palestine never existed. It was the name given to the area (including today's Jordan) by the UN's predessecor in 1920 when England took the booty it wanted from WWI. The land was totally arid without any major population (some thousand all together) Read the English "White Books" about the area/at that time. There never existed a free arabic Palestine, so the areas we took in 1967 where not conquered but freed areas from Jordan and Egypt, who went to war with us to destroy us.

michael   October 7th, 2011 7:54 pm ET

i rode the was delightful to see jews and arabs enjoying novelty and clean public transport

Rob D   October 10th, 2011 2:44 am ET

I can't wait to use the Rail. Its been under construction for far to long. But really CNN its controversial now? Could you maybe just write an article about the new transportation system and not hate Israel in it?

kevin   October 17th, 2011 4:01 am ET

Thank You LORD "JESUS" Give them Peace "LORD" Heal them "LORD" San Diego

Shahislam   October 20th, 2011 9:58 pm ET

The victims of Gaddafi have the opportunity to realize, momentarily today, how the original Creator works through humans for humans.
50 % credit is for human push, starting with Greatest of great Leaders: Mr. Obama and us all.


YR   October 22nd, 2011 8:09 pm ET

We now have the distinction of having the slowest rapid transit system in the world. At a top speed of 30 kmh it takes more than an hour to get across town (I actually tried 3 times) and that is only if there are no problems .. which there are many .. but wait the city and the operator are still arguing who is going to synchronize the stoplights so one day (maybe) the train won't need to stop at every intersection. In the meantime the train looks very modern so we are enjoying our fancy new look (only 1.2 billion $) along with our sort of world famous (it has a copy in Portugal) (70 million $) string bridge ..

Rena   October 23rd, 2011 12:13 pm ET

To Mr. Billy Spudd Potato Head: Face reality. Jerusalem is one city and there is no way it can be divided. Arabs, Christians, Armenians and Jews, religious and secular lifestyles all mixed inside municipal boundaries. If the rail had bypassed Arab neighborhoods you would have shouted discrimination. You are the type of hater that no matter what Israel does you will see deprivation of Arabs, even where it doesn't exist.

Au.   October 24th, 2011 12:13 am ET

actually the city considered avoiding muslim quarters with this rail, but after some "leftists" protests & petitions it was dismissed as "discrimination".

@John A : Israelis don't live from American taxes, but receive compensation for breaching contracts with China considering trade of military technology.
Personally I don't see why would USA be so afraid of China in that sense, but if your government wants to spend your tax money to prevent China getting that technology – it's your problem, not Israeli's.
It was not even weapons for destruction but radars which are mainly used in defensive purposes.

Tell your govt to stop sending compensation to Israel, and let Israel trade with China so it can raise it's defense. It's more profitable for Israel than your devalued dollars anyways. All will be happy, except you of course (until you personally kill all the Jews obviously).

Btw I think it was not some Jew but "handsome" Hussein Obama who was responsible for sharing Federal reserves to bank managers which spent it on their personal bonuses instead on saving economy & working class ppl.

John A   October 24th, 2011 9:31 am ET


Did you see Gaddafi being dragged through the streets and bludgeoned to death by Western backed democracy. That's your fairy tale ending, that's your hope in a future. That's your idea of a job well done and its the high ground you reach for?

And you ask what planet I come from?

proud zionist   October 28th, 2011 6:34 pm ET

Guy Azriel the jewish uncle Tom

Rob   November 1st, 2011 2:47 pm ET

To start of, John A there's something called facts so please look it up in the dictionary, accusations only go so far. Your voice will never echo far enough to make a difference, believe that. I hate when people take sides whether it be Israel or Palestine. I am Jewish and of course Israel will always be my motherland, but I do not endorse any type of violence whether it be from either side.

On a positive note I'm glad there is a transportation system being integrated. At least the people can look forward to something other than political conflict and grief. This is a great step forward and regardless of decades of conflict this nation has progressed constantly, economically and socially.

John A   November 5th, 2011 10:06 am ET

CNN continues its policy of blocking posts and updates. Have the wheels fallen of CNN's propaganda news vehicle? Has CNN finally realized that nobody believes them anymore?

By the way the Gadaffis mob killing by Western backed "undemocratic forces..." never got mentioned by "inside the middle east". Why's that? Is the ugly reality of western lies is sometimes too hard to swallow?Or is CNN too busy writing future breaking news scripts which will be spewed out during an attack on Iran?

Izzie   November 5th, 2011 9:20 pm ET

Are you guys serious? You claim to monitor the blog but you let idiotic comments like John A's go through?

KaraOK   November 6th, 2011 2:44 pm ET

How long before some allahu akbar type decides to blow themselves up on in this train?

Yosi.B   November 7th, 2011 7:04 pm ET

to John A.
You forgot to mention that Muhamad Atta was release by Israel under American pressure to advance the piece after Aslo.

Killumanati   November 9th, 2011 9:28 pm ET

Progress isn't building expensive rail-way systems when you still got s**t like massacring humans for 'peace, democracy and the Jewish homeland.'

Harris Eluwah   November 10th, 2011 2:39 am ET

Israel God's own children has done it again! I wish it could happen in Nigeria in my life time, Here our leaders have gone asleep, completely oblivious of what is happening in the world.

John A   November 12th, 2011 2:34 pm ET

The Censorship News Network carries on, business as usual?

Zuni Lan   November 12th, 2011 10:33 pm ET

I am an anti Nationalist Israeli. I will be the first to pull down our beloved flag and burn it – WHEN WE ARE THE LAST FLAG FLYING.

Zuni Lan   November 12th, 2011 10:34 pm ET

above comment to Alice

Salah   November 15th, 2011 9:20 am ET

Its just a railway, Iam a palestinian and it is good of projects.
I will use it

eddierusso   November 19th, 2011 2:35 am ET

I hate the the Israelis, As much as I hate the Arabs.

Mahmoud   November 20th, 2011 7:03 am ET

I will sell falafel and Coca Cola on the train and make a fortune. Thank you, Israel, for ongoing economic improvement for Arabs living in Israel and the West Bank.

It is true that most Arabs living in east Jerusalem and the West Bank have said they prefer to live in Israel rather than a new Muslim Palestinian state?

Now why would that be so if all the trash lies told by John A were true? Simple. Because John A is a Jew-hating liar.

Mihalyim   November 27th, 2011 9:44 pm ET

Israel took East Jerusalem over from Jordan after Jordan attacked. There was no Palestine to lose the territory.

mama   December 6th, 2011 2:09 am ET

Green bay packers 12-0

Gunnar Kimvall   December 6th, 2011 5:08 pm ET

Eastern Jerusalem.
If you steal something. Time will not making it yours.

meir   December 15th, 2011 10:36 am ET

"... the rail also passes through the Palestinian east Jerusalem neighbourhoods of Shuafat and Beit Hanina"
There not such place named " Palestinian east Jerusalem ".
Jerusalem and the neighbourhoods of Shuafat and Beit Hanina are an Israeli city. Not an palestinian area.

ALI   December 18th, 2011 1:55 pm ET

ILOVE ALL,tribes lives in there,And its not just arailway but job oppotunities,lwish lwas born there but lam ugandan ln AFRICA

Peter   December 29th, 2011 11:49 am ET

As some one living in Tunisia, I can say that much of the stupidity displayed in John's posts is believed among less educated segments of the population here. This is why it becomes destructive and requires truthful responses. After all, the new Tunisian government – please note John A – elected democratically and not influenced by the CIA or CNN is a coalition of moderate Muslim parties.

I am disappointed however that he didn't mention my favorite antisemitic urban legend: That the world Trade Center attack was planned by the Jews and all the Jewish employees were told to stay home that day. This is only slightly more idiotic than the rubbish in John's posts.

M I Schwartz   January 1st, 2012 2:06 am ET

I'm interested in a followon covering the real story here....How is the rail system working out so far?

Do the residents like it? Does it shorten commutes?

Is it less accident-prone than other city light rail systems? More accident-prone? Washington DC was torn up for quite a time for its transportation work...some of which is still ongoing. Is Jerusalem all put back together now? Are there extensions to surrounding cities being considered?

What does a trip cost? How many people are employed by the system?

Apparently only in Israel does every civic project have to have its own political commentary...

Gilbert   January 10th, 2012 12:26 am ET

There s nothing controversial about this train. This is agenda driven reporting like all 'mainstream' news groups

Marleax Piccuilloj   July 14th, 2012 12:07 pm ET

What's up it's me Fiona, I am also visiting this site regularly, this website is genuinely nice and the users are in fact sharing nice thoughts.

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