Middle East Monitor / January 16, 2020
A new train ride that tours historical sites of Jerusalem’s Old City, including a small building representing the Dome of the Rock Mosque, has opened at the Asdaa City theme park in Gaza, reported The Times of Israel.
The new ride is called ‘The train of Return to Jerusalem’, and the entire journey spans 550 metres and features two elevated tracks, taking more than two years to build, and was inaugurated earlier this month.
“This was the dream of every Palestinian in Gaza and now it has become a reality with the efforts of the Palestinian minds that built this project,” explains Wael Al-Khalili, president of the Asdaa board of directors.
Before ascending to the train tracks, a large sign with the number 99 appears, representing the distance in kilometres from Asdaa to Jerusalem.
The cost of a ticket to ride on the train line is NIS 5 ($1.45).
Located at the city of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, the Asdaa City theme park is made up of three main attractions including an amusement park, a huge swimming pool with water slides and a small zoo, and covers almost the entire area of the former Ganei Tal settlement, which was evacuated after Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.
Geographically disconnected from the occupied West Bank, a 12-year blockade imposed by Israel means that adequate supplies of essential goods, including fuel, are prevented from entering the Gaza Strip.
As residents of the besieged Gaza Strip living in the enclave have never been allowed to travel beyond its nominal border, the train ride seeks to duplicate historical sites including the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron and the Dome of the Rock Mosque, which sits in Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem.
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa Mosque represents the world’s third holiest site, after Mecca and Medina. Jews refer to the area as the ‘Temple Mount’, claiming it was the site of two synagogues in ancient times.
Al-Khalili describes Asdaa as an amusement park that brings together tourism and Palestinian nationalism.
In a video taken by Gaza-based journalist, Osama Al-Kahlout, on 10 January, showing some of Asdaa’s new attraction, Al-Khalili explained: “Its projects are used for tourism and relaxation, as well as instilling national concepts and values through representations of Palestinian history and memory on its property.”
He also stressed the importance of overcoming the obstacles related to Israel’s restrictions on the movement of goods to construct the train project.