Although Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky is developing a plan to
construct an egalitarian prayer space at Robinson’s Arch – widely considered one
of the most historic sites in the country – a Hebrew University professor of
archeology said any changes to the area would be unacceptable.
Due to the
ongoing conflict between members of Women of the Wall and ultra-Orthodox Jews
who object to the form in which these women pray at the Western Wall, Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last year requested that Sharansky find a
According to Sharansky’s proposal, the Wall plaza would be
expanded to encompass the additional prayer space – and the two sections of the
plaza separated by the Mugrabi Bridge would share a common entrance. This would
entail the construction of a 500-squaremeter wooden deck, suspended by steel
beams several meters above the ground, to create additional
However, Prof. Eilat Mazar, an archeology professor at Hebrew
University, was up in arms against the suggestion.
“It’s absolutely not
an option to build anything near Robinson’s Arch,” he said this
“It’s a sacred archeological site and it is the only place where
visitors can get an accurate impression of the original Wall’s destruction
during the Second Temple period.”
Indeed, according to Mazar, any
tampering with the area surrounding the remnants of Robinson’s Arch, located
south of the Western Wall, would profoundly damage the unique historic integrity
of the area.
The professor said Robinson’s Arch is the only place along
the Wall where people can see the remains of the pilasters that once decorated
other parts, and that any construction there will minimize and obscure the way
that part of the Western Wall is presently viewed.
“[It is] the only
place where people can still see the height of the Wall to such a degree,” she
said. “There’s no way anything can be built there.
Nobody should touch
the place!” Mazar said. “We’re talking about a very small area of great
importance that must remain untouched. I don’t care about [Sharansky’s] plan –
no plan should be arranged there.
It should stay as a worldwide
heritage.” The government has not yet issued approval for Sharansky’s
plan.JTA contributed to this report.