A bridge that serves as the sole entry point for Jews and tourists to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount is in immediate danger of collapse, a structural engineer has warned, according to a Thursday television report.
The Mughrabi Bridge leading from the Western Wall compound to the Mughrabi Gate was hastily constructed 15 years ago as a temporary replacement for an earthern access ramp that was in danger of collapsing at the time.
According to Channel 13 news, engineer Ofer Cohen has written in an official letter to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, after examining the bridge, that the wood is “in a state of extreme dryness and has many longitudinal cracks.”
He wrote that efforts to extend the wood’s life have failed and its current state “doesn’t enable safe use of the bridge over time,” adding that his “unequivocal” recommendation is to replace the bridge with a metal one that would be more durable and fireproof.
However, that would likely inflame tensions with the Palestinians and with Jordan, who view any building activity in the area as a provocation against Muslims.
The Temple Mount plaza is considered the holiest place in Judaism as it is the site where the first and second Jewish Temples once stood. It also houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.
Israel captured the Temple Mount, and the rest of the Old City and East Jerusalem, from Jordan in the 1967 war, and annexed it, but it allowed Jordan’s Waqf (Muslim trust) to continue to oversee the compound and other Islamic sites in Jerusalem. Israel allows Jews to visit the Temple Mount but not to pray there.
Jordan and the Palestinian leadership do not recognize the site as being holy to Jews. Anything that is viewed as changing the status quo in or around the compound is highly sensitive and often triggers strong responses from Jordan.
In 2014, Israel dismantled a partially built wooden access ramp that had been under construction and would have replaced the bridge.
Under heavy Jordanian pressure, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered that the structure be removed, saying its construction was “illegal” and had never received the proper authorization, a government source said at the time.
Negotiations began in 2007 between Israel, Jordan, Washington and other players over a permanent replacement for the bridge, which ascends to the mount from alongside the main section of the Western Wall, a remnant of the retaining wall that supported the Second Temple complex and the holiest site at which Jews are allowed to pray. The talks apparently never progressed.
In 2011, the UN cultural agency UNESCO decided that all parties should be involved in the ramp’s design process and that neither side should take any unilateral actions that could affect the character of the site.