City: Destroy Mughrabi Gate within two weeks

Engineer says it was never meant for permanent use; lawyer insists no reason to hurry before court date.

Mughrabi Gate bridge 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
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.
Since 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.
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“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 on Monday.
“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 bridge.
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.
An official 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 unsafe.
Attorney Kais Nasser, who represents the Council for Muslim Interests in Israel, strongly denounced the city engineer’s letter.
“I 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 violence.
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.
Israeli construction on the bridge was halted in 2007 because the project lacked the necessary permits.
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 sites.
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 March.
The construction of a new bridge will be carried out in cooperation with the Israel Antiquities Authority.