The Kerem Tunnel (Hagihon), the first bicycle tunnel in Israel was inaugurated today, Friday (9.9.22), in Jerusalem. The tunnel accessibility project, 2.1 kilometers in length, was led by the Jerusalem Municipality, the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage and the Gihon Company and carried out by the Jerusalem Development Authority. About 25 million shekels were invested in the project, whose construction began during the days of Nir Barkat, and which were budgeted by the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage, the Ministry of Tourism, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Gihon Corporation and the Jerusalem Purification and Sewage Works.
It should be noted that the tunnel, which is as mentioned 2.1 km long, is the fifth longest bicycle tunnel in the world. As is known, in the cycling competitions around Jerusalem held in recent years, the Kerem tunnel was part of the route, but it was closed immediately after. Now, with the completion of the works – it Will be open to the riding public almost all the time.
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The Kerem Tunnel offers a unique riding and hiking experience, for the benefit of the city’s residents and in general. Riding in the tunnel is also suitable for enthusiasts and the most advanced safety and control measures have been installed.
The tunnel is part of the Circum-Jerusalem Trail, the unique cycling trail – 42 km long – that surrounds the city. The Kerem Tunnel connects the path between Nahal Refaim and Emek Motza. The southern entrance to the tunnel is in Refaim Park, below Ein Laban, and the northern entrance is located at Nahal Ein Kerem, About half a kilometer from Kerem Junction.
Cycling tunnels in the world (screenshot: from Wikipedia)
The tunnel was first excavated in the 1990s, when the goal, according to the municipality, “was to move the main sewer line of the Gihon Corporation towards the purification plant in Shork, which is located to the west of the city and is currently used as an infrastructure tunnel that also includes the fifth water line to Jerusalem of the Mekorot company.”
Some years ago, when the mayor at the time, Nir Barkat, was exposed to the tunnel, he determined that it should be used for the benefit of the city’s residents, and thus the planning began and the works got under way. The works done in recent years included road construction, installation of blowers and installation of advanced electrical and safety systems, to make the tunnel safe for the public to pass through all year round. “The Kerem tunnel, in addition to being part of the cycle path around Jerusalem and the rail park,” the municipality notes, “also allows access to unique recreation sites, including the magical Ein Kerem neighborhood, the biblical zoo and aquarium, the historic natural springs Ein Laban and Ein Haniyeh.”
The ‘Kerem’ tunnel (photo: Assi Efrati)
Mayor Moshe Leon adds: “The Kerem tunnel project is an amazing project for which we have worked a lot. It is the largest bicycle tunnel in Israel and the fifth largest in the world. The tunnel will connect to the long path around Jerusalem, will join the existing bicycle paths in the city and those that will be paved in its various neighborhoods, with the concept of encouraging the use of bicycles among its residents and visitors and promote the green transportation revolution in the capital city.”
“In the past, Jerusalem was an attractive tourist city due to its glorious past, today, apart from its historical treasures, it also incorporates modern tourism,” Minister of Construction and Housing, Jerusalem and Heritage, Ze’ev Elkin, “The inauguration of the Gihon Tunnel project is another part of the development of Jerusalem and its transformation into an attractive tourist city for all types of audiences in Israel and throughout the world. The tunnel will also allow the area surrounding Jerusalem to attract visitors and thus strengthen the city’s traditional tourist destinations. The Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage under my leadership invests hundreds of millions of shekels each year in developing all aspects of Jerusalem’s tourism and in creating innovative attractions and ventures that connect the glorious historical past of our eternal capital to its promising future. I invite cycling enthusiasts to come and enjoy a modern and well-maintained cycling route that overlooks the special landscape of Old Jerusalem.”
Chairman of the Gihon Corporation Avi Baleshnikov: “The Gihon Corporation is proud to be a partner in the first sports tourism project of its kind in Israel. The Kerem tunnel (Hagihon) is an infrastructure tunnel that hosts a bicycle path. This will be a unique opportunity to get to know the world of water and sewage and enjoy a unique challenge.”
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And what do the cyclists say? Yoni Yaffe Nof, an activist in the organization ‘Bicycles for Jerusalem’ says that “besides the fact that it is one of the longest bicycle tunnels in the world, it is located near the unique natural sites of Jerusalem, and connects the neighborhoods of South Jerusalem with the Ein Kerem neighborhood.”
Robbie Katz, a cyclist from Jerusalem, adds: “We congratulate the mayor, the officials of the municipality, the Gihon, the RL and more on the project of opening the Gihon tunnel to cyclists. This project is unique in Israel and in the world, and we are sure that it will attract many riders to ride in it and in Jerusalem and its surroundings. We would be happy for the tunnel to be open seven days a week from morning to evening, so that it will serve both sporty riders and daily riders on their way to work and home. Righteousness”.
Avi Frank, resident of Rehavia and active in the organization ‘Bicycles for Jerusalem’: “I only got to ride twice in the Kerem tunnel and it was an amazing experience, it’s a cool, long and well-marked tunnel, and I recommend everyone to come at least once and ride here. In general, fun and happy that more and more bicycle infrastructure is being added in Jerusalem, because it really is a perfect city for cycling, you just need a mental switch and with the climbs things are going great.”