(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A plan to construct a small new bridge to the Mughrabi Gate which has won city approval has been transferred to the Interior Ministry planning committee for final approval, the Interior Ministry announced late Tuesday.
The proposal, which calls for the construction of a 95-meter-long bridge to the Mughrabi Gate, comes months after earlier, controversial plans to build a much larger new bridge to the site directly through an archaeological garden were nixed.
The proposed route of the new bridge, which is pending final approval, will follow the existing route of the ramp leading up to the Mughrabi Gate and will be significantly shorter than the previously planned bridge.
A salvage excavation which began at the site earlier this year and then was stopped as the new plans were drawn up could resume shortly, officials said.
The excavation, which drew the wrath of Islamic officials who claimed the mosque inside the Temple Mount compound could be damaged, led to low-level Arab violence in the region.
The bridge was meant to replace a temporary bridge which has been constructed on the section of the Western Wall allocated for women's prayer that was built over a year ago after the original stone ramp leading up to the Mughrabi Gate was removed, having been deemed unsafe by city engineers.
The Mughrabi Gate is the entryway for non-Muslims to the Temple Mount, and is also used by Israel police to enter the Jerusalem holy site for routine patrols and to quell sudden violence.
The previously planned route of the new bridge - through one of the most significant archaeological parks in Israel and the world - provoked an outcry among archaeologists who said that its construction would inevitably damage antiquities and badly hamper the natural view at the site.
The archaeological tempest over the planned bridge was subsequently overshadowed by violent protests by Islamic officials over the salvage excavation near the Temple Mount the planned construction prompted.
A UNESCO report on the contested Israeli archaeological dig underway near Jerusalem's Temple Mount concluded that the excavation is not damaging the contested holy site, but called on Israel to stop the dig nonetheless in order to allow for international observation of the work.
The original stone ramp, which was built after the Six Day War in 1967, and served as the point of entry for non-Muslim visitors entering the Temple Mount, was badly damaged during an earthquake that rattled that region four years ago and by inclement wintry weather.