JERUSALEM – A rickety bridge permitting entry to Jerusalem’s most delicate holy web site is susceptible to collapse, in response to specialists. However the flashpoint shrine’s delicate place at ground-zero of the Israeli-Palestinian battle has prevented its restore for greater than a decade.
The tenuous state of the Mughrabi Bridge has raised fears of one other catastrophe months after a stampede at a spiritual pageant in northern Israel left 45 folks useless.
Days after the stampede final Could, a municipal engineer employed by the Western Wall Heritage Basis inspected the Mughrabi Bridge. Citing its poor situation, he urged its instant substitute and approved its use solely till September.
With a Supreme Court docket lawsuit pushing for the construction to be repaired, the federal government may quickly be compelled into taking motion on an issue that it has lengthy evaded as a consequence of its broad diplomatic sensitivities with Jordan, the Palestinians and the broader Muslim world.
The bridge is the only real entry level for non-Muslims to succeed in the contested hilltop compound revered by Jews because the Temple Mount and by Muslims because the Noble Sanctuary.
Foot site visitors has grown significantly since its development in 2004 after an earthen ramp resulting in one of many compound’s gates collapsed following an earthquake and heavy snowfall.
Engineers have warned for greater than a decade that it’s more and more unsafe. However non secular sensitivities and diplomatic impasse have translated into years of inaction.
The Temple Mount is the holiest place in Judaism, the positioning the place two historic Temples stood. Immediately, the compound is house to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and iconic gold-topped Dome of the Rock, and is the third-holiest web site in Islam after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.
The competing claims to the positioning have sparked repeated bouts of violence through the years and helped gas an 11-day battle between Israel and Hamas militants within the Gaza Strip in Could.
Days earlier than the Gaza battle erupted, the Western Wall Heritage Basis, the government-backed group that manages the Jewish prayer plaza on the base of the mount, had an engineer examine the bridge.
In a letter obtained by The Related Press, engineer Ofer Cohen stated the rapidly constructed bridge’s wood beams had been “in a state of utmost dryness” and severely cracked. He authorized use of the bridge till no later than September and urged authorities “to behave instantly to exchange the bridge with a purpose to make secure its use.”
His inspection got here lower than per week after the lethal stampede earlier this yr at Mount Meron, the place 100,000 worshippers had gathered for an annual pilgrimage regardless of coronavirus restrictions and longstanding warnings the advanced couldn’t deal with giant crowds.
A authorities fee is now investigating the April 30 incident, the deadliest civilian accident in Israeli historical past.
The Mughrabi Bridge hangs over the ladies’s prayer part of the Western Wall plaza, the holiest place the place Jews can pray.
In June, a bunch of girls who pray on the wall petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court docket to demand solutions from the assorted authorities, saying the bridge’s continued existence was “a violation of the provisions of the regulation and in addition creates an actual danger to the general public.” The court docket is predicted to carry a listening to on the matter this week.
The petitioners’ attorneys have additionally known as on the fee probing the Mount Meron catastrophe to research the “harmful and dilapidated momentary bridge located illegally above the ladies’s part.”
The unique allow issued by Metropolis Corridor authorized the momentary bridge for using police till the ramp could possibly be repaired. It by no means was.
A 2006 Prime Minister’s Workplace memo stated “it’s understood that the momentary wood bridge can not proceed to serve the group for a very long time” and known as upon the Western Wall Heritage Basis to finalize plans for a everlasting substitute.
However diplomatic strain by neighbouring Jordan, which serves as custodian of the Islamic belief managing the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, has made it tough to behave.
Day-to-day affairs on the web site are ruled by a set of understandings known as the “established order,“ and any perceived change to those precarious guidelines has the potential to ignite outrage throughout the Muslim world.
The Palestinians and Muslims worldwide worry that any shifts — even one meant to guard public security — may result in an Israeli takeover or partition of the positioning.
“For Jordan, it’s related to the established order of the Temple Mount. For those who breach the established order, it’s a pandora’s field,” stated Yitzhak Reiter, chair of the Israel research division at Ashkelon Educational School, and an professional on disputed holy websites.
Israel and Jordan reportedly reached an settlement to exchange the bridge in 2011, however that deal fell by means of. On the time, Israel accused Jordan of reneging.
Relations between the 2 neighbours additional soured prior to now decade and “since then, nothing has been finished as a result of the Jordanians nonetheless oppose it,” Reiter stated. Israel’s new authorities has moved to restore ties with Jordan, an essential Arab ally, however it’s unclear whether or not they are going to be capable to make progress on the bridge.
Within the meantime, Jewish visits to the compound have grown from round 5,800 per yr in 2010 to greater than 37,000 in 2019, in response to police figures cited by Hebrew newspaper Makor Rishon. Israeli police declined requests to verify these figures.
On Sunday alone, over 1,500 Jews visited to mark the Jewish holy day of Tisha B’Av. The upper-than-usual quantity, together with a few of the guests violating a ban on Jewish prayer, added to Muslim issues that Israel is attempting to disrupt the established order.
The bridge’s substitute has develop into a trigger célèbre for opposition lawmakers.
Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud occasion and his non secular nationalist allies, not too long ago ousted from energy after 12 years, search to confound Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s delicate coalition of disparate political events.
Earlier this month, former Transportation Minister Miri Regev known as for an “instant dialogue in regards to the hazard brought on by a collapse of the bridge,” saying “a whole lot of hundreds of persons are in danger” through the upcoming Jewish Excessive Holidays.
Officers from all sides concerned have been tight-lipped in regards to the difficulty.
Cohen, the engineer, declined to remark, directing inquiries to the Prime Minister’s Workplace, which manages Israel’s affairs on the Jerusalem holy web site. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s workplace declined to remark. Neither the Jordanian authorities nor the Waqf would remark.
Reiter, the educational, stated he believed the present push by Israeli non secular nationalists to repair the bridge was “an try to capitalize on the political scenario in full disregard of Jordan.“
He didn’t consider this bid would work as a result of “Israel’s curiosity in defending good relations with Jordan as a strategic accomplice are extra essential and weighty.“