Jerusalem traffic is horrible. I choose to walk half an hour to work in the morning. Were I to drive from Baka it would still take 20 minutes; up Derech Beit Lechem which is relatively free flowing other than the occasional taxi driver stopping in the middle of the street (being a taxi driver it is HIS street after all...) but at the junction with Emek Refaim things start to get really clogged up. Derech Hevron and Rechov Keren Hayesod have both been in the process of being dug up to improve public transport for quite a while and progress to and from town is somewhat retarded.
This morning saw me headed for Tel Aviv, and, realising that it would take me the best part of half an hour to get to the main exit from the city, I decided on an alternative route. Turning south on Derech Hevron, I headed towards Gush Etzion on the tunnel road, turning right at Hussan in the direction of Beit Shemesh. The traffic was minimal and the scenery beautiful. At the Tzur Hadassah junction I turned right towards Nes Harim. The road winds around and is great fun to drive on, particularly as it's almost empty. Looking out over the Jerusalem hills, the views were spectacular; green hills with valleys blanketed by a shroud of white mist - certainly a far prettier view than you'll get on the main road. One really doesn't need to travel far from the centre of Jerusalem to feel that one is in the middle of the countryside.
Coming over the top of a hill, I found Beit Shemesh spread out beneath me, lit by the early morning sunshine - it's a stunning overlook that shows you just how quickly the place has developed. Dropping down to the valley floor brought me out at the shopping centre in the entrance to Beit Shemesh. I chose to continue by car rather than heading for the train station which would have been an easy way to avoid the Tel Aviv traffic. Joining the road at Sha'ar HaGai I reckon that I'd been driving for 35 minutes - probably a few extra kilometres but little if any extra time used than had I gone by my usual route and no tension from sitting queueing in traffic.
The drive is worth it for the views alone - we are very programmed to use the main road between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and I wouldn't have dreamed of using this wonderful route had not a colleague suggested it. For those who live in the Gush or Tzur Hadassah area, I can't think that they'd be a better way to travel and would seriously recommend it as an option to those who live in the South of Jerusalem too.