Jericho cable car important for tourism in West Bank
Famed for its warm climate and ancient sites, Jericho and the Jordan Valley are places where Palestinians hope investment in the tourism industry will keep growing.
Tourists from all over the world come and visit the lowest lying point on earth, some 400 meters (1,300 feet) below Sea Level, an area which also boasts a warm climate during the winter months.
Jericho’s cable car is an example of investment in the area. Built in 1998, the cable car entered the Guinness Book of World Records a year later as the world's longest cable car-aerial tramway below Sea Level.
The cable car links Tel Jericho to the top of the Mount of Temptation, where Jesus Christ is said to have fasted for 40 days.
“It was hard for tourists to visit the monastery on the top of the Mount of Temptation in Jericho, due to the altitude and there was no easy way to climb the mountain,” explained Marwan Sinokrot, head of Sultan Telepherique and Tourist Centre, which operates the cable car.
“We decided in the company to carry out this project to make it easy for tourists and visitors to visit this historical site. It has become a very important and beautiful tourism site, in this low-lying area, this city of Jericho. This site overlooks Jordan, the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley,” he said.
The cable is 1,330 meters long from the base station to the top station in the mountain. There are 12 cabins and each cabin takes eight people.
Jericho, the world’s lowest lying city, is located west of the biblical Jordan River, a sluggish, 100-km (60-mile) stream which forms the border with Jordan from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea.
The city’s mayor hopes that Jericho’s history will attract further investment.
“Jericho is the story of history and humanity. This cable car is adding an element of tourism and beauty to the city. We wish (Jericho) will develop further. We demand from all the investors, Christians, Europeans, Arabs and Palestinians to invest in this city. The city can afford investments and can host tourists,” said the Mayor of Jericho, Hasan Saleh.
The cable car is seen as an important aspect of commercial life in the ancient city.
“Since the cable car entered the Guinness Book of World Records, it has increased tourism in the country, and so has a positive effect on the country’s economy,” said shopkeeper Jamal Joudeh who sells clothing near the cable car stop.
“The economy is better. I hope that Palestine will have areas of tourism so people can benefit from it. This year tourism is better than previous years, this is something which makes us happy and proud as Palestinians,” he said.
The Palestinian Authority has plans to build an airport near Jericho, but needs funding and a political agreement with Israel, and has also plans to open a duty-free center in Jericho.
Palestinians are also investing in a range of businesses in the area, from providing tourists with boxes of fresh produce to take on flights when they leave, to building new hotels and restaurants.