Mugrabi Bridge opens after temporary closure

Fire truck is stationed in the Western Wall Plaza; MK Eldad says "there's nothing holy about the status quo."

By MELANIE LIDMAN
December 14, 2011 08:30
3 minute read.
Mugrabi Bridge, fire truck

Mugrabi Bridge, fire truck!_311. (photo credit: marc israel sellem)

After a three-day closure due to safety concerns, Jerusalem Municipality officials on Wednesday reopened the Mugrabi Bridge, the temporary wooden structure that leads from the Western Wall Plaza to the Temple Mount complex.

The municipality had insisted on the bridge’s closure due to its flammability and danger of collapse.

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But the closure of the only Temple Mount entrance that Jews could use prompted an outcry from activists and politicians. It was reopened early on Wednesday after a fire truck was stationed next to the bridge.

Jerusalem fire department spokesman Asaf Abras said the truck would be stationed at the bridge from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the next 10 days.

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Next week, the Western Wall Heritage Fund, which oversees the Western Wall Plaza and the Mugrabi Bridge, will fortify the bridge with flame-retardant material and additional anchoring supports. The work is being carried out in cooperation with the police, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Antiquities Authority.

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch said he hoped diplomatic efforts would enable the future replacement of the bridge, which now takes up a large portion of the women’s prayer section.

National Union MKs Uri Ariel and Arye Eldad took the bridge up to the Temple Mount Wednesday morning to put pressure on the government to replace the structure rather than use a temporary fix.

“The time has come for the government to exercise its sovereignty over the holiest spot in the Jewish religion,” Ariel said outside the Temple Mount.

Eldad said there was no reason to be worried about disturbing the status quo.

“I checked the whole Torah, and the words ’status quo’ are not there. There is nothing holy about the status quo,” he said.

The MKs had originally planned their visit to protest the lack of access for Jews and tourists who wanted to go up to the Temple Mount.

Traditionally the Mugrabi Gate is the only entrance for non-Muslims.

It was closed to the public from Sunday to Tuesday, due to ongoing safety concerns.

Eldad added that the idea of placing a fire truck next to the bridge was “ridiculous.”

He compared the situation to the popular fable of the Wise Men of Chelm, who had a broken bridge.

People kept falling off and breaking their legs. But rather than building a new bridge, they built a hospital next to it so that when people fell and hurt themselves, they would have somewhere to go.

“This is exactly what we’re doing by putting a fire truck there,” he said.

The bridge was opened for non-Muslims to enter the Temple Mount complex on a normal schedule, which includes most mornings except for Friday and is contingent on the Muslim Wakf.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday he was “frustrated” that the Mugrabi Bridge would not be replaced with a new bridge, one that would be more aesthetically pleasing and restored to the size the original was in 2004, before it collapsed.

The original earthen ramp collapsed that year due to heavy snowstorms. The temporary bridge was originally due to be used for only six months.

Due to the sensitive nature of Jerusalem’s holiest site, an attempt to build a new bridge in 2007 stirred violent protests across the Arab world and calls for a third intifada.


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