Here's a riddle: Name one thing Palestinians and ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem agree on

May 26, 2009
*Special to asia!

Hint: It's what's been tearing up the heart of the city for years now.

The answer is right there outside the walls of the Old City. You can't miss it. It's the construction that will grow up to become Jerusalem's own tram system.

According to various reports like this one in the Wall Street Journal, the project is one that's gone and unified Palestinians and ultra-orthodox Jews, traditionally opposed to each other in every way. 

The Palestinians fear that by connecting the Jewish settlements of Pisgat Ze’ev and Neve Yaakov to Jerusalem, the tram will contribute to yet another Israeli land-grab to expand the Jewish West Jerusalem. As for the ultra-religious Jews, they don't want the two genders mixing on the tram. 

Adding to all this objection is the mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat himself. He says it costs too much and has brought nothing but disruption to the city's streets with first the construction, then the numerous delays in the project.

He would much prefer buses. 

Good for Mr Barkat, since the tram is not going to be happening any time soon.

A French district tribunal has agreed to hear the case against Alstom and Veolia, the companies building the tram. A pro-Palestinian group - Association France Palestine Solidarite – which includes the Palestinian Liberation Organisation or PLO have accused them of violating international law and France's own position that East Jerusalem is not sovereign Israeli territory.

Even if the project is ruled to be legal, it's still not going to be smooth-sailing from here on. The US$1 billion project, funded by the State of Israel and the Jerusalem Municipality, has been hit by financing difficulties. Latest estimates are that the project will be finished in summer 2011.

The outlook for Jerusalem now appears to be more inconvenience , with a chance of 42 top-on-the-line US$3 million tram cars running along half-empty with their specially-fitted stones-and-firebombs-resistant windows?

Unless they delay its completion long enough...

Maybe they may be able to inaugurate it at a time when Palestinians and Israelis will trust each other enough to share a tram car.


(This post is a part of's coverage of the Second Palestinian Festival of Literature, held in May 2009)


dan-chyi chua

Dan-Chyi Chua was a broadcast journalist, before forsaking Goggle Box Glitz for the Open Road. A three-year foray led her through the Middle East, China, SE Asia, Latin America and Cuba, and she's now grounded herself as a writer for, content with spending her days in Jerusalem.

Contact Dan-Chyi