|Mughrabi Gate bridge 311.(Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem)|
Mughrabi Bridge renovation gets municipal nod
By MELANIE LIDMAN
Left-wing groups criticize authorities’ failure to coordinate the potentially explosive project with the Wakf.
A plan for the renovation of the Mughrabi Gate bridge, which leads from the
Western Wall plaza to the Al-Aksa Mosque and the Temple Mount, received final
approval from the Jerusalem Municipality last week, enabling construction to
begin at any time.
Previous work on the bridge has sparked widespread
rioting and violence in both east Jerusalem and the Arab world due to the
Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch said that
despite receiving final approval, his organization did not anticipate starting
construction in the near future. The project will be carried out in cooperation
with the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The Antiquities Authority declined
to comment on the matter.
The new bridge is a scaled-down version of the
original project, which proposed a massive 95-meter bridge leading from an
The original plan prompted an outcry from
archeologists worried that such a large structure would not only damage
archeological findings, but also detract from the aesthetic nature of the
Work for the original project started in 2007, without the
necessary construction permits from the municipality.
from the Ir Amim organization and city councillor Pepe Alalu (Meretz) froze the
work until the municipality could approve the project though the regular process
that all construction in the city must undergo. That process, which includes
approval by the Interior Ministry, was concluded last
Construction on the Mughrabi Bridge in 2007 sparked protest
marches in Jordan, as well as calls for a third intifada and low-level violence
in Wadi Joz and other areas of the Holy Basin. UNESCO investigated the site in
an attempt to defuse religious tensions, and found that the construction was not
damaging holy sites. However, it called on Israel to halt construction until a
team of international observers could join.
Rabinovitch dismissed any
suggestion of renewed tensions, even with the Arab world in a state of
“We don’t see any reason for conflict, because we’re talking
about a bridge renovation,” Rabinovitch said on Monday.
you never can tell,” said Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran. “There are things we think
will cause riots and don’t do anything, and there are things that we don’t
understand why they suddenly riot.”
While left-wing organizations did not
condemn the bridge itself, they criticized the Western Wall Heritage Foundation
for undertaking the project without discussing it with the Wakf, which controls
Muslim holy sites in the area.
“They didn’t consult with the Wakf and
didn’t consult with UNESCO,” Alalu said on Monday. “They only got the permits
from the State of Israel. They say the project is legal, but it depends which
legal system you’re looking at.”
The municipality noted that the
construction permit awarded on Thursday was the last step in the approval
process, and that the municipality could not withhold the permit after the
project had already been approved by the local and district
The new bridge is meant to replace the temporary wooden
bridge that has been in use since a 2003 earthquake and winter storm caused part
of the original bridge to collapse, leading city engineers to deem it unsafe.
The ramp is used as the main entry point for non- Muslim tourists to visit the
plaza, as well as security forces entering the area in times of unrest.