by Yael Adar
It was a military secret until 1972, when its very existence was first revealed.
During the War of Independence, fire from Arab League forces, made it impossible to reach the positions on Mt. Zion. These served as the forward position in the defense of southwest Jerusalem. At the time, a tunnel linked Mt. Zion with the Yemin Moshe neighborhood (in the western part of the city). The tunnel was very narrow and an alternative method was needed to evacuate the wounded and bring supplies to the soldiers on Mt. Zion.
Uriel Jefetz designed this unique cable car. While it was only in use for half a year the IDF maintained it in working order from 1948 until 1967, should the need for it ever arise. The Harel Brigade conquered Mt. Zion on May 18, 1948.
The cable car spanned 200 yards/meters and was in use only at night. During the day it was lowered into the valley, so that the enemy could not detect it. A trip in this cable car only lasted two minutes Suspended 50 yards/meters above the Ben Hinom Valley it had a maximum load of 5500 pounds (250 kilos) and linked the Israeli position on Mt. Zion with the Israeli position at St. John Hospital (a clinic for eye diseases). The hospital was built in 1882 under the auspices of the Duke of Kent (of the Order of St. John).
The site is maintained as a small museum and you can see the authentic cable car (the car is authentic, although the cable has been restored) as well as a good view of Mt. Zion.
Jefetz was Commander of the I.Z.L.’s (Irgun Zvai Leumi) Engineering Corps. He was awarded the Israel Security Prize and received a number of the IDF’s highest commendations for his participation in the Yom Kippur Was and the terrorist siege at Maalot.
A number of other things are worth noting, at this location.
1. As you exit the museum, take a left and follow the sidewalk. The Mt. Zion
Hotel will be on the same side as the museum. Just past the entrance to the hotel, you will find an area with potted plants. At its edge is a wonderful look out point.
2. Right across from the museum is the Jerusalem House of Quality, which is a great place to see artists at work. Most of the artists here create jewelry as well as a variety of Judaica items in silver, and gold. (see related article, On the Side - Spice Boxes).
3. A short walk down the hill, will find you at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, which is a great place to go and have coffee at Lavan. As you walk out of the Mt. Zion Cable Car Museum, take a right and walk down the hill. Steps will lead you down to a red-shingled building. Once inside, go downstairs and you will find the restaurant/cafe, named Cacao.
The Mt. Zion Cable Car Museum is located at 11 Hebron Road.
Visiting Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 9:00 AM-4:00 PM, Friday 9:00 AM-1:00 PM.
Entry fees: Free