Last week, the Society of Professional Journalists named Tablet contributor Daniel Estrin a Sigma Delta Chi Award honoree for his 2012 Vox Tablet report about a new light-rail system in Jerusalem, a city hardly known for its high-functioning infrastructure. With a rapidly growing population squeezed between sacred sites, and as ground zero for an intractable territorial conflict, Jerusalem is more or less an urban planner’s worst nightmare. When the light-rail system was first proposed, it was meant to ease congestion and unify the city. In addition to facing a host of logistical obstacles on its way to completion, the project prompted considerable opposition because the trains would cross borders that many people have fought hard to define and defend, separating East Jerusalem from West, Arab from Jew. After nearly a decade of construction, at a cost of more than $1 billion, the system began taking riders in August of 2011. As Daniel Estrin learned in riding it about town, if one thing unites commuting Jerusalemites, it’s their frustration with the train’s deficiencies.
To celebrate Daniel Estrin’s achievement, we re-present his award-winning story and encourage you to listen to his series on Hidden Jerusalem.