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Bypass Road Inaugurated, Links Jerusalem to Etzion Bloc

September 3, 1996
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A $42 million bypass road linking Jerusalem to Jewish settlements south of the city was inaugurated this week, resulting in applause from Jewish settlers and criticism from others.

“This is the fulfillment of an old dream to be connected to Jerusalem,” said Yeshayahu Yehieli, deputy head of the Etzion bloc council, which represents Jewish settlements in the southern West Bank.

Zionist settlement in the Gush Etzion region goes back to the pre-state era. The Etzion bloc was the location of the first Jewish settlements after the Six- Day War and was established in part by orphans of the original settlers.

The new road is made up of the longest tunnels and bridge ever built by Israel. One tunnel, which is about 900 feet long, goes under the Gilo neighborhood in southern Jerusalem. The other tunnel, which is some 3,000 feet long, passes under Beit Jala, a Palestinian village near Bethlehem.

A 1,150-foot bridge connects the two tunnels.

Initially begun under the Likud-led government in 1992, construction of the road, which bypasses Palestinian communities, was continued by the following Labor-led government.

Palestinians have strongly opposed the building of bypass roads, and say Israel has expropriated land for the projects.

In addition, dozens of Israeli peace activists protested at the otherwise uneventful dedication.

Ariel Sharon, Israeli infrastructure minister, said in response to the demonstrators: “There were days when a new road didn’t bypass problems, but solved problems.”

He added, “I believe if we succeed in defining clear national goals and stick to them, those great days will return and with them peace and security.”

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