Filth and neglect are a good description of the State Comptroller's findings on the status of Jerusalem's tourism locations, as revealed in a newly released report on the state of the capital city. The report also found that the tourism website was often not updated, prominent eyesores, urine stains and bad odors and risk of electrocution.
Many of the findings were listed in previous, reports going back to 2010, that have seemingly been ignored and allowed to endure. "Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, the epicenter of the three major monotheistic faiths and the eyes of the world are upon it," Comptroller Yosef Shapira wrote in the prologue to the report.
"Within (the city) are many historic and heritage sites, nature reserves, government offices, academic centers and cultural centers. There is much tourism potential in the city and it is necessary to provide tourists with suitable services to help them realize the full potential of their visit," he continued.
In 2006, the government passed a law intended to establish an oversight agency to advance the development of tourism, culture and foreign relations for the city; but the report notes that the government has since failed to establish such an agency and the matter has lingered ever since.
According to the report, the website intended to provide tourist information is not sufficiently updated and a confusing mixture of languages appear on the same page; information pamphlets distributed to tourists were found to include obvious grammatical errors, especially in the English version. Also, street signs were found to be inconsistent, neglected and improvised — some are even designed in a manner inconsistent with the city's own regulations.
For example, the city's tourism website provides visitors with timetables and fees for the light rail line. In august 2018, the prices listed in Russian and Italian were outdated; in the German, Russian, Portuguese and Italian pages, the timetable was wrong. Other information was also found to be wrong and out of date.
The report also describes how many locations in the Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site, are neglected, filthy and full of inescapable eyesores. "In prominent tourism areas, like Christians St. Hagai St. and adjacent alleyways in the vicinity of the Damascus and Lions' Gate, piles of garbage and filth, trash bags hanging on the gate, overflowing trash bins and garbage floating in the fountains were found. In addition, large trash containers near the Tower of David and at Mount Zion were open and surrounded by filth."
Stairways in the Old City were found to be in a state of disrepair and pose a danger to pedestrians. Many of the area's arched passageways were found to be in a state of neglect: watermarks, peeling paint and much of the electrical and air conditioning infrastructure was installed in an improvised manner.
The city's water fountains require repairs and many of them do not actually dispense any water and in some sections of the Old City, exposed wiring is rampant, posing an electrocution hazard.
The report also examined other tourist areas like the Armon Hanatziv (East Talpiot) Promenade, the Mount Scopus Promenade and the Tzurim Valley Trail and found urine stains, foul odors, exposed wiring and scattered garbage.
Other sites along Jaffa Road, as well as in the east of the city were found to also be in a state of disrepair and neglect. Cracked sidewalks, damaged and filthy street fixtures, such as benches and water fountains, and a terror attack memorial fountain lacking running water — are some of the things the report found throughout the city.
The Jerusalem municipality has a contract with a cleaning and maintenance company for the city's public restrooms. But the report found that maintenance was highly lacking and equipment missing.
The comptroller recommends that the Jerusalem municipality consider establishing a body to oversee the city's tourism division and that information distributed to tourists, both digital and in print, should be up to date and precise. The city also ought to prioritize sanitation disposal, remove all forms of blight from public space, fix sidewalks and public fountains and remove hazardous wiring from the alleyways of the Old City.
The Jerusalem municipality responded, saying that it intends to draw conclusions from the report, adding that many of the findings are from previous years and that since then, there have ben many improvements, especially concerning cleanliness in the city, and the city will continue to implement the necessary measures outlined in the report.