The state will conduct minor repairs to a bridge that serves as the sole entry point for Jews and tourists to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount due to a risk of collapse, according to a Thursday television report.
The tenuous state of the Mughrabi Bridge has raised fears of another disaster months after a deadly crush at a religious festival in northern Israel killed 45 people.
Days after the tragedy in May, a municipal engineer hired by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation inspected the Mughrabi Bridge. Citing its poor condition, he urged its immediate replacement and authorized its use only until September.
In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, engineer Ofer Cohen said the hastily constructed bridge’s wooden beams were “in a state of extreme dryness” and severely cracked. He approved use of the bridge until no later than September and urged authorities “to act immediately to replace the bridge in order to make safe its use.”
In response to the engineer’s report, the state said it would conduct a gradual replacement of the wooden beams that are in a bad state, Channel 13 news reported.
The move would allow the temporary bridge to continue being used, as Israel has no current plans for a permanent solution, the report said.
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 earthen access ramp that was in danger of collapsing at the time.
The structural engineer had recommended replacing 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 Six Day 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, (though such instances have also been increasing).
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. But under heavy Jordanian pressure, then-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.