History of rail transport in Israel

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The first Jaffa–Jerusalem train arriving in Jerusalem

In the beginning: Ottoman Empire[edit]

Sir Moses Montefiore, in 1839, was an early proponent of trains in the land of Israel.[1] However, the first railroad in Eretz Yisrael, also known as Palestine, was the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway, which opened on September 26, 1892.[2] A trip along the line took 3 hours and 30 minutes.[1] This line had been built by French interests.[2] The second line in what is now Israel was the Jezreel Valley railway from Haifa to Beit She’an, which had been built in 1904[1] as part of the Haifa-Daraa branch, a 1905-built feeder line of the Hejaz Railway which ran from Medina to Damascus.[2] At the time, the Ottoman Empire ruled the Levant, but was a declining power and would succumb in World War I. During the Ottoman era, the network grew: Nablus, Kalkiliya, and Beersheba all gained train stations.[2] The First World War brought yet another rail line: the Turkish military laid tracks from Beersheba to Kadesh Barnea, somewhere on the Sinai Peninsula.[2] (This line ran through trains from Afula through Tulkarm.[1])

The heyday of Mideastern regional rail travel: the British Mandate[edit]

Main article: Palestine Railways

The British invaded the Levant, demolished the Kadesh Barnea line, and built a new line from Beersheba to Gaza, allowing a connection with their own line from Egypt,[2] running through Lod to Haifa.[1] In 1920 a new company, called Palestine Railways was established, which took over the responsibility of running the country's rail network. During the British Mandate, rail travel increased considerably, with a line being built between Petach Tikva and Rosh HaAyin, and Lydda (which was near the main airport in the area) becoming a major hub during WWII.[2] Also during the war, in 1942, the British opened a route running from Haifa to Beirut and Tripoli.[1] Shortly after the war expired, the Rosh HaNikra tunnel was dug, allowing train travel from Lebanon and points north (and west) to Palestine and Egypt.[2]

Disruption and Renewal: Israel[edit]

Main article: Israel Railways

The British Empire and French Empire fell apart, and this included the Mideast: Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, and Syria, among others, were now independent countries, borders were closed, and so the railroad network disintegrated. Israel Railways remained, and over the next several decades, train service in the Levant was built up again.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Milestones". Israel Railways. Retrieved 2010-05-29. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Famous Engine Saved from the Scrap Yard". ERETZ Magazine. Retrieved 2010-05-29. 

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