The Cabinet approved on Sunday a plan for the continued development of the Kotel (Western Wall) plaza and its environs, and the implementation of construction work at an investment of 85 million shekels over five years. The goal of the plan is to preserve – and improve accessibility to – archaeological findings, upgrade physical and transportation infrastructures, and hold educational activities for students and soldiers.
The plan, for 2011-2015, is a direct continuation of the five-year plan that was approved by the Cabinet in 2004. These investments have led to a major increase in the annual number of visitors to the Kotel, which according to Israel Police estimates, has grown from two million people to eight million in 2009.
The government explained in a press statement that the Kotel is the most visited site in Israel. In addition to those who visit it in order to pray, it also serves as an historical site for visitors and a heritage focus for educating students and soldiers. “Thus, it is necessary to meet the traffic needs of private vehicles and public transportation, create access routes for emergency vehicles, increase access for the handicapped and provide for the flow of visitors on weekdays and holidays,” the statement said.
The plan will be administered by the Prime Minister's Office and will be implemented through the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. It will be financed by the Interior, Transportation, Tourism, Public Security and Education ministries, as well as by the Israel Land Administration.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "The Western Wall is the Jewish People's most important heritage site. We are committed to developing and maintaining it so that it may continue to the focus of visits and a source of inspiration for millions of visitors, tourists, young and old, from Israel and around the world."
The wall is a part of the external wall that surrounded the Temple Mount in ancient times. The Mount was liberated by the Israeli Defense Force in 1967, 19 centuries after a Roman army sacked the Second Jewish Temple.