Modern Jerusalem's Iconic Landmark, Who Built It And Why?

When hiking the scenic Jerusalem Mountains (especially the Nes Harim area), I tend to keep my eye out for good viewpoints towards Jerusalem. What better landmark to look out for than the 118-meter high mast supporting 66 steel cables that make up the Chords Bridge right at the entrance of modern-day Jerusalem. The highest structure in Jerusalem at the time of its completion, the bridge stands out easily from its surroundings and is visible from hilltops miles away from all directions. There are even some viewpoints where on a clear day one can see Jerusalem to the east and Tel-Aviv and the Mediterranean Sea to the west! 

(view of Jerusalem from Nes Harim)

Who Built It? 

In 1997, world-renowned architect and engineer, Santiago Calatrava was visiting Israel for the opening of an exhibition of his works in Haifa in 1997. During that visit, he was approached by  Jerusalem city engineer Uri Shetrit and former mayor Ehud Olmert who, according to Calatrava, challenged him to "do the most beautiful contemporary bridge". It took upwards of 150 million NIS and several years but on June 25th, 2008 the bridge was inaugurated with a lavish ceremony that included famous singers, a dance troupe, fireworks, and gorgeous illumination of the bridge against the night sky. Calatrava had pulled off another amazingly designed bridge, this time in Jerusalem. 

What Purpose Does It Serve? 

Besides being strikingly beautiful the bridge plays a major role in the transportation of Jerusalem. Israel’s first light rail train runs over it allowing it to run smoothly without disrupting the busy intersection below. It also contains a pedestrian lane to allow an easy way of getting from Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station to some of its main neighborhoods. In fact, it’s the first bridge Calatrava designed to support a light rail train and pedestrians! 


The Design and Symbolism

The Chords Bridge is designed to symbolize King David’s harp. It’s "also the excuse to create a major plaza, to give character and unity to this delicate place" in Calatrava's words. Dubbed "Jerusalem's first shrine of modern design" by Time magazine, the bridge embankments are constructed out of Jerusalem Stone in compliance with local zoning laws and the pylon and cables are made of steel. Furthermore, on Calatrava's website, he expresses his hope for the bridge to become a symbol and a force for reconciliation. 'Bridges join places that were separated,' he states. 'They are built for the sake of progress and for the average citizen. They even have a religious dimension. The word 'religious' comes from Latin, meaning 'creating a link'. A bridge makes a lot of sense in a city like Jerusalem.


Anyone coming into the city of Jerusalem from its main entrance can’t help but notice the magnificent structure. Often times the chords are lit up at night with a myriad of colors and light up accordingly to specific dates on the calendar ( such as an Israeli flag on Independence Day) making it a popular point for tourists and locals alike to stop and take in the view, snap some photographs and take a stroll across the bridge. While visiting Jerusalem I highly recommend you come to see it yourself, after crossing it you’ll reach a light-rail train station which you can take to the Machane Yehuda Shuk (which deserves a whole article itself), the center of Jerusalem and the Old City (Jaffa Gate). It also makes a great spot to get an iconic photograph of Jerusalem whether you're there at sunset facing the surrounding mountains, or at night to see it lit up. 



The Chords Bridge is an iconic and scenic landmark of the city of Jerusalem, bridging the gap between historic and modern. Built by one of the world's leading architects, it makes a great sight to see and get a picture of whether you're visiting Israel or a local Israeli.