Court won’t allow expansion of women’s section at Kotel

Anti-Semites are using the law ‘like a hatchet to attack the Kotel,’ its rabbi says, vowing to appeal.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
September 17, 2010 03:26
1 minute read.
Illustrative photo

women of the wall 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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The Jerusalem District Court has partially rejected a plan to expand the women’s section at the Western Wall, which included plans to replace the Mugrabi footbridge.

The structure is a temporary wooden bridge that leads from the Western Wall Plaza to the Mugrabi Gate entrance to the Temple Mount. The court rejected the expansion of the women’s prayer area, but will allow the construction of a new bridge.

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The decision was a victory for Mahmoud Masalha, a Temple Mount scholar who initiated the appeal of the proposed renovations. He accused the Western Wall Heritage Foundation of using the new bridge as an excuse to expand the women’s section, violating delicate “status quo” agreements in the area.

Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinovich roundly condemned the decision.

“The significance of the High Court’s [sic] decision is to change the temporary injustice suffered by women at the Western Wall into a permanent and unacceptable solution,” Rabinovich said in a statement. “Thousands of women visit and pray at the Western Wall every day, forcing them to continue crowding into an area that’s at least 50 percent smaller than the area they should receive, all thanks to political causes and anti-Semitism, which are using the law like a hatchet to attack the Western Wall.”

According to Muslim tradition, the Mugrabi Gate is the only gate through which non-Muslims can enter the Temple Mount. When part of the original earthen ramp collapsed during a snowstorm in 2004, the temporary bridge erected to replace it lopped off about a third of the women’s section in front of the Kotel.


Excavations beneath the bridge as part of an effort to strengthen its support beams sparked international Muslim protests in February 2007.



The Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee approved construction of a new ramp in March of last year. Earlier this year, Masalha filed his appeal against the project.

On Wednesday, Rabinovich said he would appeal to the Jerusalem Municipality and the Jerusalem District Planning Commission, which is under the aegis of the Interior Ministry, to overturn the court’s decision.

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