Jewish access to their most holy site, Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, may be cut off after the city’s engineer, Shlomo Eshkol, ruled the temporary Mughrabi Bridge has become unsafe — and the Muslim fraternity that oversees the sensitive area forbade any repairs.
The covered ramp leads from the base of the Mount at the Western Wall — the “Wailing Wall” — and provides non-Muslims with access to the area where Solomon’s Temple stood. A temporary structure, the walkway was built in 2004 after an earthquake destroyed a stone ramp built by soldiers at the end of the 1967 Six-Day War that gave Israel control of the holy area.
Some rabbis have issued edicts forbidding any Jew from setting foot atop the Temple Mount since, in their opinion, all modern Jews are ritually unclean — and thus forbidden to enter the Temple or any area where might have stood. They have also expressed deep concern of the divine consequences of accidentally entering the area where the Holy of Holies stood — a section of the Temple where only the High Priest was allowed to enter once a year.
Thus, the ramp is not used by many Jews.
In its current condition, according to Eshkol, the walkway is unsafe and poses a danger to public safety — particularly to tourists who use it to climb from the Western Wall to the top of the Mount.
“The complaint of its stability could not come at a worse time for Israel,” reports Arutz Sheva, Israel’s TV channel 7. “The bridge, also known as the Rambam Gate, has been a potential explosive subject involving Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.
Eshkol wrote a letter Tuesday to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation requiring the temporary structure be fixed within 30 days. A judge gave authorization for a new walkway in May, but construction has been stalled because the various parties in authority over the sensitive area “disagree over who has the authority to tear down the current bridge and finance a new one,” reported Arutz Sheva.
The Kingdom of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority both claim authority over the bridge and have asserted with the United Nations their responsibility for tearing down the walkway, building a new one, financing a new structure or leaving the existing one in place.
“The last thing Israel wants is Jordanian and Palestinian Authority workers entering the Western Wall plaza,” reported Arutz Sheva.
Late Tuesday, the Waqf — a Muslim fraternity that has overseen the Temple Mount for 1,000 years — rejected Eshkol’s opinion that the walkway must be repaired or replaced.
The Waqf said the final decision in the matter is theirs, as they regard the Temple Mount as a Muslim sanctuary under their sole authority. No one else, they claim, has a right to interfere or monitor their affairs.
Israel has allowed the Waqf to administer the Temple Mount since the end of the 1967 war. However, the final decision on the walkway’s future lies with Israeli officials.
“Over the years Waqf officials have systematically pursued a policy of obstructing Jewish access and worship to the Temple Mount,” reports Arutz Sheva, ”refusing to allow necessary repairs to preserve the holy site, blocking access to archeologists, and allowing the wholesale removal and destruction of Jewish antiquities linked to the site by Arab construction companies employed to work there.”
The Waqf position is that the Western Wall is not an ancient Jewish site, but a Muslim holy area, and that Israel is illegally occupying the area.