The Jerusalem Municipality on Sunday authorized an initiative of United Jerusalem councilman Aryeh King, and altered the number 43 Egged bus line to expand transportation for Jewish residents in eastern Jerusalem.
The bus line currently travels from Armon Hanatziv in the eastern part of the capital, to the Jewish community of Maaleh Hazeitim on the Mount of Olives, where King lives. Under the new bus route, the line will continue on to Abu Dis on the eastern outskirts of the city.
The move is meant to support the Jewish families currently living in the Arab-majority neighborhood of Abu Dis, and encourage more Jewish residents to move in, strengthening the Jewish presence in eastern Jerusalem. Although the Egged route will serve both Jewish and Arab residents of the city, Arab residents are already served by Palestinian Authority-registered buses, which Jewish Israelis are unable to travel on; thus the new route will specifically benefit Jewish communities in those areas.
Making the bus extension particularly significant is the planned Jewish neighborhood of Kidmat Tzion, located adjacent to Abu Dis. An increase in Jewish presence is thought to affect police enforcement in Arab-majority neighborhoods of the capital. In February, terrorists marched near Abu Dis, and an increased focus on the area could strengthen security in Jerusalem.
The program will cost an estimated 800,000 shekels (over $200,000), and will be financed by the Municipality and the Transportation Ministry. The change will come into effect towards the end of 2014.
King noted that "despite the opposition of leftists in the Jerusalem Municipality, we succeeded in passing this precedent-setting decision that Egged buses will reach everywhere."
"This is a milestone" emphasized King, adding "we have to act to unify Jerusalem, not just in terms of tourism or culture, but also in terms of transportation."
Speaking about the impact of the new initiative, King stated that "the goal is to connect all parts of the city for all residents of Jerusalem, so that Jerusalem residents will be able to reach Abu Dis and Abu Dis residents will be able to reach the center of the city."
King's bold plans to preserve and strengthen the Jewish character of Jerusalem by increasing security in the eastern part of the city has also included a new initiative to limit the nighttime Muslim muezzin prayer call. All of these steps are part of King's goal of enabling Jews to live in all parts of the Israeli capital.