It took me 2 hr 35 mins to reach my destination in Jerusalem, a drive that used to be about 1.5 hrs. I once drove from Herzliya to the Knesset in 1 hr, although I must admit that I exceeded the speed limit. On the recent return journey, outside the rush hour, the same drive took 1 hr 45 min. I look forward to the day when I can drive to Jerusalem in an hour again, without exceeding the speed limit. Yes, I am a dreamer.
I have driven to Jerusalem thousands of times. It used to excite me, but now its just a road journey, full of traffic and best avoided if possible. As everyone knows the road from the entrance to the canyon at Sha’ar Hagai (Bab el Wad in Arabic) is windy and slow. Since there are only two lanes, a convoy of slow moving trucks blocks one of the lanes, so all of the rest of the traffic uses one lane, totally insufficient for the main road to the capital.
I am pleased to report that they are making great strides at widening and straightening the road, from Sha’ar Hagai to the entrance to Jerusalem. Great chunks of hillsides have been sliced off and replaced by receding steps of smoothed surfaces, leaving wide expanses of flat areas that in the future will be ashphalted and on which many lanes of cars will drive smoothly and quietly. There are also huge mountains of stones of various sizes for the building of said roads.
Just before Jerusalem they are building a massive concrete bridge over the valley near Matza (yes, there is a place called Matza and they do eat bread there). This will remove one of the most dangerous, time-consuming and ridiculous parts of the road that descends precipitously from the Harel Bridge at the entrance to Mevasseret Zion down to Matza, then takes a sharp left ninety degree turn and climbs all the way back up to the Sakharov Gardens. All of these improvements will make the drive to Jerusalem shorter and easier, although it certainly will be at the expense of its scenic beauty. But, that’s progress.
Perched above the Harel Bridge is the remains of Castel, a small ancient fortress that overlooks the road to Jerusalem and that played a pivotal role in the War of Independence in 1948. The Arabs who held this position easily cut off access to Jerusalem, which was besieged for a year. When this position was captured by the Haganah in 1948, local Arab resistance collapsed and Jerusalem was liberated. Now it’s significance seems over-shadowed by the massive roadworks progressing nearby.
Also, the remnants of the old armoured cars that were used to try to relieve the sige on Jerusalem, that have been kept as memorials to the many Jewish fighters who died trying to reach Jerusalem, are now repainted and lined up in straight convoys for tourists to see. Diminishing, yet inevitable.