Accessibility ramps and other improvements are being added throughout Jerusalem's Old City, allowing the disabled easier access to the Western Wall 3,000 years after Solomon built his Temple there, the Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA) announced Tuesday.
A special project of the Jerusalem Development Authority, the Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Office, the Jerusalem Municipality and Social Security, the project will see ramps built in the Jewish Quarter, at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the City of David - places that were previously inaccessible to the handicapped. The project will cost, in total, roughly 20 million shekel ($5.75 million).
Improvements include installing sloping ramps over stairs to help wheelchairs maneuver comfortably, changing signs to accommodate visitors with vision problems, and other cues to help the handicapped find their way.
Commissioner of the Old City Division of the Jerusalem Development Authority, Aner Ozeri, hailed the project as a step forward for the neighborhood.
"Tourists excitedly tell us that they can finally get to the Holy Sepulchre," Ozeri said. "The disabled access project is part of a larger project we are doing to improve access to all tourist and pedestrian areas in the old city."
In addition, special maps are downloadable from the Old City website which provide both information and a layout of the neighborhood, as well as apps providing directions and an "auditory tour of Jerusalem."
A free shuttle bus service was launched for visitors to the Old City over the past several weeks as well - for all tourists, not only the disabled. The shuttles are also adapted for the wheel-chair bound and provide an easy means to travel to the area and back.