Chanukah is often an occasion for a chanukat habayit (the inauguration of a new home), but the future-city of Efrat used the holiday to inaugurate a new traffic circle at the Efrat Junction, Route 3157. "Once the existence of a well was the sign of a town," said Efrat's Chief Rabbi HaRav Shlomo Riskin, "Today it is a proper road."
The new circle, located at Efrat's southern entrance, was built to prevent traffic accidents, which have caused several fatalities at that spot.
The traffic circle, Efrat's fifth, was only one of the many projects undertaken thanks to Minister of Transportation and Road Safety Knesset Member Israel Katz. According to Efrat's Mayor Oded Revivi, the Transportation Ministry has spent 16 million shekels in Efrat – fixing the crosswalks, building stroller and wheel chair accessible crossings, creating a bus bay outside one of the schools, installing speed bumps and traffic circles, culminating in its newest, most expensive and most vital circle – one that Revivi and Katz hope will save lives at what was a treacherous intersection.
Mayor Revivi told participants in the ceremony that when Minister Katz came to Efrat two years ago, Oded showed him the one tractor that had been sent to work on the town's first traffic circle. "The excitement over the one tractor in Efrat was as great as if we had a construction permit to build a skyscraper, and yet all we got was a permit to build our first traffic circle."
Oded told the Minister, "See what one tractor does to Efrat's residents. If we only received building permits, what a party we would make."
Outgoing Gush Etzion Mayor Shaul Goldstein has been working to improve the traffic situation at this junction for many years, Revivi noted. But even after monies were budgeted, the traffic circle did not move forward because it needed additional land for a properly built circle. Although the court ruled that jointly-used roads could appropriate private lands, if needed, the road remained frozen until the Moetza offered to move the traffic circle onto Efrat land.
Since the monies were no longer available, Minister Katz had to work very hard to rescue the project's budget.
The project was saved and a large gathering, including residents of Efrat, Gush Etzion Rosh Ha'Ayin, and even the Muchtar of the village Jurat al-Shama'a were present at the ceremony. The Muchtar's villagers have also been involved in traffic accident's at Efrat's Southern Entrance.
Ironically the ceremony was held right after a traffic accident had occurred at Efrat's northern exit, which needs a drastic transportation and road safety solution. "Once every two days, we have an accident there," Revivi noted.
[BTW, during the ceremony Oded Revivi revealed that Efrat was given yet another Chanukah prize. Just today the Ministry of Housing delivered to Efrat the booklets about housing on Givat HaDagan. He thanked the Prime Minister for making it happen.]
Efrat's Chief Rabbi HaRav Shlomo Riskin reiterated that it is a tremendous mitzvah to make roads and traffic circles in the State of Israel, so that we can live safely. The construction of this critical road led Rabbi Riskin to recite the blessing, "Blessed are You, God, our Lord, king of the universe, who establishes the boundary of the widow" (which is usually pronounced upon seeing the houses of
He also recited, "Blessed…who commanded us to guard our souls."
Minster Israel Katz explained the importance of the circle. "In
Judea and Shomron, traffic control and infrastructure are for safety and in order to save lives. We all know that a hole in the road and a missing light here means a loss of security.|
The Ministry of Transportation's comprehensive plans throughout Yesha began two years ago. Much has been accomplished, and there is much more to go.
He concluded by explaining the connection between Jews everywhere with Gush Etzion.
He said, "I am not a religious Jew that keeps all the mitzvoth, but from my chinuch (education), I know what most Israelis know. We have a Biblical right to this area. There should be no reason to stop building or for Jews to stop living here. And it is every person's right to travel safely."
Minister Katz announced a special project that the Ministry of Transportation has undertaken, Netivei Yisrael (the lanes of
Israel) which will correct "injustices of the past", including the isolation of the Negev and the Galil. "These areas need to be connected, just as the communities of Gush Etzion do. I hope one day a train will connect to Yehuda and Shomron."
Katz ended, "We will do everything we can to strengthen us, because your living here strengthens us."
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