A recent article in Ha’aretz reviewed the debate regarding building a train railway in the North: On the one hand, the Prime Minister, Minister of Transportation and Minister for the Development of the Galilee and Negev support building a fast train that will connect Carmiel – a major city in the Galilee – (and later Kiryat Shmona) to Tel Aviv. On the other hand, the Ministry of Finance proposes building a light rail that will create greater connectivity between communities in the North.
Building a fast train corresponds to the Prime Minister’s approach of economic development based on commuting from the periphery to the center. However, this approach raises questions as to whether upgrading physical infrastructure will improve inhabitants’ accessibility to employment in the center by itself? Commuting is costly and may be a suitable solution only for those who work in high paying jobs. Moreover, improving physical accessibility doesn’t facilitate overcoming social and cultural barriers (such as those which prevent Arab women from working far away from their homes.) Finally, the question is whether building a fast train between the periphery and the center will improve the quality of life of periphery’s inhabitants.
Accessibility is not solely about shortening the time needed to reach the center. In Reut’s recent visit to Yeruham, we heard that the inhabitants’ accessibility problem isn’t about reaching Beer Sheva, but the lack of a transportation network between regional communities. For example, the inhabitants of Mashabei Sade, who want to reach Yeruham (which has become a regional center of Jewish culture and thought), are forced to ride to Beer Sheva and from there to Yeruham, even though there are only 23 km between the two locations.
So far, the conclusion seems to be that while building infrastructure is indeed important for economic and social activities, it has to be relevant to the region’s inhabitants’ needs and desires.
Related post: Expending the Definition of ‘Accessibility’
The study visit to Yeruham was part of Reut’s Strategic Leadership Training Program, which includes a component of Jewish history and tradition. This program is kindly supported by the Shusterman Foundation, through the Center for Leadership Initiatives and Melitz.