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      Op-Ed: The Jerusalem Train Station

      Published: Saturday, December 22, 2012 7:31 PM
      The planned renovation should add to the atmosphere and heritage of the Holy City, not be planned to detract from it.


      Recently, it was reported on Arutz Sheva, as well in both the Jerusalem Post and the English Language Ha'aretz, that the Old Jerusalem Train Station, a historic site that has been vacant since the train route was discontinued in 1998, will be renovated to accommodate a variety of non kosher eateries and bars open on Shabbat.

      As an Olah Chadasha, a new immigrant, I was appalled that an icon of Jerusalem, a structure that had become synonymous for  many with ascension to Jerusalem, could be so debased.

      Many of us remember the long, winding train ride, through the scenic mountains, valleys and wadis, a ride through the landscape described in the Books of the Prophets, ultimately to culminate in arrival at Jerusalem, the eternal physical and spiritual capital of Israel and the Jewish people.

      The historic train line, running from Jaffa to Jerusalem, was inaugurated in 1892.  Jewish and Arab dignitaries, including the reviver of the Hebrew language, Eliezer ben Yehuda, who gave the train the now-unused name "horse of steel" attended the ceremony.. The train's path followed an ancient route, ascending to Jerusalem through Wadi Sorek and the Refaim Valley to the train station in in central Jerusalem.

      The argument for the decision on the character of the renovation, as stated in the report, was a desire on the part of the developer to attract more tourism to Jerusalem. How misguided!

      Tourists who are attracted to tour Jerusalem, Jew and non Jew alike, seek to experience the sanctity of the city.

      On a recent visit to the Kotel, I was so taken by the many groups of women praying at the wall; African, Asian, Eastern European, South American, just to name a few. And by the way, none of these groups were Jewish. They came to Jerusalem exclusively to connect with holiness, rather than the exploration of non-kosher culinary delights.

      Many cities of the world offer nightlife, bars and exotic foods, only Jerusalem offers visitors an opportunity to experience the heights of spiritual connectedness.

      As a frequent traveler, I can testify that cities around the world with abandoned train stations have transformed these buildings into art galleries, museums, hotels and even shops.

      Here in Jerusalem, the abandoned train station, privately owned or not,  should be renovated to reflect our heritage, the character and nature of the city and its inhabitants over the centuries. It can be transformed into multiple uses; a social hall, a museum, a theatre, an auditorium or possibly, an indoor space of serenity and contemplation.

      It would attract many more tourists if that were done.

      And yes, should visitors grow hungry, there should be various food options, kosher options, reflecting the ethnic backgrounds of the different populations inhabiting Jerusalem over the many centuries.

      And yes, all business at the Train Station should be closed on Shabbat, as in other historic locations in the city, in recognition of the sanctity and spirit of Holy Jerusalem.