Mughrabi Gate bridge 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The Jerusalem City Engineer sent a strongly worded letter to the Western Wall
Heritage Fund on Sunday, stating that the temporary bridge to the Mughrabi Gate
must be destroyed within two weeks, or the city will tear it down.
RELATED:Mughrabi bridge renovation gets municipal nod
2004, the covered ramp has been used as the main entry point for non-Muslim
tourists to enter the Temple Mount from the Western Wall plaza, as well as for
security forces entering the area in times of unrest.
“The bridge was not
intended to provide a permanent solution and is not suitable for security and
civilian needs, as well as may be hazardous due to deteriorating physical
conditions,” a spokeswoman for the municipality told The Jerusalem Post
“Use of the bridge should be halted by destroying it, as the city
engineer has noted,” the spokeswoman said.
The municipality said that
since the heritage fund received the necessary permits in March to build a
replacement bridge, there is no reason to continue using the old
A representative of the fund said they were waiting for final
approval from the Prime Minister’s Office due to the sensitivity of the area and
the possibility of security concerns.
“Everything is in the hands of the
Prime Minister’s Office,” the representative said on Monday.
traveling with the Prime Minister in Washington said a decision on the matter
has yet to be made.
The official said one safety concern is avoiding
playing into the hands of extremists who would use any change in the site to
stir up tension.
The new bridge is meant to replace the temporary wooden
bridge, built in 2004 when an earthquake and winter storm caused part of the
original bridge to collapse, leading city engineers to deem it
Attorney Kais Nasser, who represents the Council for Muslim
Interests in Israel, strongly denounced the city engineer’s letter.
don’t think making a onesided decision without the Waqf is very smart,” Nasser
told the Post,
pointing out that the explosive area could easily degenerate into
The issue of a replacement bridge and coordination with Muslim
authorities was set to be discussed by the Supreme Court in June, but the case
was pushed off until December.
“It’s been there for five years and it’s
standing and still working well, so I don’t understand what’s the hurry now. Why
not wait for the case to come before the courts,” Nasser said.
construction on the bridge was halted in 2007 because the project lacked the
The construction also sparked protest marches in
Jordan, as well as calls for a third intifada and 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
However, it called on Israel to halt construction until a team of
international observers could join.
Legal challenges from Nasser, 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 at the beginning of
The construction of a new bridge will be carried out in
cooperation with the Israel Antiquities Authority.