During the winter of 2004, rainstorms, snow, flooding and a minor earthquake
destroyed the old Mughrabi Ascent. Connecting the Western Wall plaza to Mughrabi
Gate, the earthen ramp was the only entry point for non-Muslims to the Temple
Mount, which is under control of the Jordanian Waqf, the Muslim custodian of
holy sites – though Israel has entry rights.
Tourists regularly used the
ascent. So did some religious Jews motivated by a spiritual yearning to be as
close as possible to Judaism’s holiest site and by the conviction that it is
important to demonstrate a Jewish presence there – at least in the areas where,
according to their understanding, Jewish law permits Jews to
venture. (Under the agreement between Israel and the Waqf, Jews are not
allowed to pray there out of deference to Muslim sensibilities.)
The ascent was
also the only way large numbers of Israeli security forces could gain quick
access to the mount in times of emergency or disturbances.
ago a “temporary” wooden ramp, which blocked about a third of the space reserved
for female supplicants at the Kotel, was erected. In parallel, an
interministerial committee began planning a new bridge.
Carmi proposed a bridge of glass and steel 200 meters in length (the original
Mughrabi Ascent had been 80 meters long), extending from the Dung Gate to the
Mughrabi Gate. The planning was accompanied by archaeological rescue
excavations, a precondition under Israel law aiming to protect archaeological
artifacts. Israel took meticulous care rescuing and preserving antiquities –
Arab and Jewish.
Cameras were stationed at the excavation site proving
the Temple Mount and its mosques were not in danger. Representatives of
the Jordanian government, a delegation from Turkey and a delegation on behalf of
UNESCO were allowed to visit the site – to no avail.
used the excavations and the bridge plans as an excuse to stage violent
demonstrations and incite against Israel. In February 2007, Sheikh Raed Salah,
head of the more extremist northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel,
claimed that Israel was planning to build a third Temple.
“They want to
build their temple while our blood is on their clothing, on their doorposts, in
their food and in their water,” he said.
Islamic Jihad in Gaza launched
rockets at Sderot. Leading Palestinian Authority cleric Taysir al-Tamimi called
on Palestinians to go to al-Aqsa immediately “to protect it from the bulldozers
of the Israeli occupation… which are working to destroy Al-Aqsa
Israel buckled under the pressure. Carmi’s plans were scrapped.
Instead, it was decided that the original earth ascent would be restored. But
even this modest project, which entails the destruction of the temporary wooden
bridge, has aroused the rancor of the Muslim world.
In June of this year
representatives from Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Bahrain hijacked UNESCO’s World
Heritage Committee, convincing it to censure Israel for daring to renovate the
Now time is running out. Jerusalem’s chief engineer for dangerous
structures and the firefighting service determined that the wooden ramp was
dangerous and a fire hazard, and must be dismantled immediately. Meant to be a
temporary solution, the ramp has been standing for seven years and is a disaster
in the making.
Finally, it looked as though the dangerous ramps would be
replaced. Over a 72-hour period starting this Saturday night, crews were to
begin dismantling the ramp. However, on Monday Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu, fearful of Arab reactions, ordered a delay in the demolition of the
bridge yet again.
Apparently, the bridge has become an issue in the
Egyptian elections. The Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, Sheikh Yusuf
Qaradawi, is claiming that the bridge could enable Israeli security forces to
invade al-Aqsa Mosque. Posters were put up at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University
calling on Muslims to protect the mosque.
This madness must stop. An
absurd situation has been created in which some irrational Muslim leaders,
intoxicated by their own lies – including the spurious belief that the First and
Second Temples were never situated on the Temple Mount – have intimidated Israel
Israel must not cave in to the insanity of Muslim
extremism. The Mughrabi bridge must be replaced – the sooner the better.