'Robinson's Arch construction plans must be held'

"It’s absolutely not an option to build anything near Robinson’s Arch," says HU professor of archeology.

May 14, 2013 18:18
1 minute read.
Reconstruction model of Ancient Jerusalem in Museum of David Castle

Reconstruction model of Ancient Jerusalem in Museum 370. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Although Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky is developing a plan to construct an egalitarian prayer space at Robinson’s Arch – widely considered one of the most historic sites in the country – a Hebrew University professor of archeology said any changes to the area would be unacceptable.

Due to the ongoing conflict between members of Women of the Wall and ultra-Orthodox Jews who object to the form in which these women pray at the Western Wall, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last year requested that Sharansky find a solution.

According to Sharansky’s proposal, the Wall plaza would be expanded to encompass the additional prayer space – and the two sections of the plaza separated by the Mugrabi Bridge would share a common entrance. This would entail the construction of a 500-squaremeter wooden deck, suspended by steel beams several meters above the ground, to create additional space.

However, Prof. Eilat Mazar, an archeology professor at Hebrew University, was up in arms against the suggestion.

“It’s absolutely not an option to build anything near Robinson’s Arch,” he said this week.

“It’s a sacred archeological site and it is the only place where visitors can get an accurate impression of the original Wall’s destruction during the Second Temple period.”

Indeed, according to Mazar, any tampering with the area surrounding the remnants of Robinson’s Arch, located south of the Western Wall, would profoundly damage the unique historic integrity of the area.

The professor said Robinson’s Arch is the only place along the Wall where people can see the remains of the pilasters that once decorated other parts, and that any construction there will minimize and obscure the way that part of the Western Wall is presently viewed.

“[It is] the only place where people can still see the height of the Wall to such a degree,” she said. “There’s no way anything can be built there.

Nobody should touch the place!” Mazar said. “We’re talking about a very small area of great importance that must remain untouched. I don’t care about [Sharansky’s] plan – no plan should be arranged there.

It should stay as a worldwide heritage.” The government has not yet issued approval for Sharansky’s plan.

JTA contributed to this report.

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