JERUSALEM (AP) — A rickety bridge permitting entry to Jerusalem’s most delicate holy website is vulnerable to collapse, based on 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 non secular competition in northern Israel left 45 folks useless.
Days after the stampede final Might, a municipal engineer employed by the Western Wall Heritage Basis inspected the Mughrabi Bridge. Citing its poor situation, he urged its quick alternative and approved its use solely till September.
With a Supreme Courtroom lawsuit pushing for the construction to be repaired, the federal government may quickly be pressured into taking motion on an issue that it has lengthy evaded on account of its broad diplomatic sensitivities with Jordan, the Palestinians and the broader Muslim world.
The bridge is the only entry level for non-Muslims to achieve the contested hilltop compound revered by Jews because the Temple Mount and by Muslims because the Noble Sanctuary.
Foot visitors has grown significantly since its building 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 location the place two historic Temples stood. As we speak, the compound is house to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and iconic gold-topped Dome of the Rock, and is the third-holiest website in Islam after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.
The competing claims to the location have sparked repeated bouts of violence through the years and helped gas an 11-day struggle between Israel and Hamas militants within the Gaza Strip in Might.
Days earlier than the Gaza struggle 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 unexpectedly constructed bridge’s picket beams have been “in a state of utmost dryness” and severely cracked. He permitted use of the bridge till no later than September and urged authorities “to behave instantly to exchange the bridge with the intention to make secure its use.”
His inspection got here lower than every 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 complicated 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 Courtroom to demand solutions from the varied authorities, saying the bridge’s continued existence was “a violation of the provisions of the regulation and likewise creates an actual danger to the general public.” The court docket is anticipated to carry a listening to on the matter this week.
The petitioners’ attorneys have additionally referred to as on the fee probing the Mount Meron catastrophe to analyze the “harmful and dilapidated non permanent bridge located illegally above the ladies’s part.”
The unique allow issued by Metropolis Corridor permitted the non permanent bridge for using police till the ramp might be repaired. It by no means was.
A 2006 Prime Minister’s Workplace memo stated “it’s understood that the non permanent picket bridge can’t proceed to serve the group for a very long time” and referred to as upon the Western Wall Heritage Basis to finalize plans for a everlasting alternative.
However diplomatic stress by neighboring Jordan, which serves as custodian of the Islamic belief managing the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, has made it troublesome to behave.
Day-to-day affairs on the website are ruled by a set of understandings known as the “establishment,” and any perceived change to those precarious guidelines has the potential to ignite outrage throughout the Muslim world.
The Palestinians and Muslims worldwide concern that any shifts — even one meant to guard public security — may result in an Israeli takeover or partition of the location.
“For Jordan, it’s related to the established order of the Temple Mount. When you breach the established order, it’s a pandora’s field,” stated Yitzhak Reiter, chair of the Israel research division at Ashkelon Educational Faculty, 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 way of. On the time, Israel accused Jordan of reneging.
Relations between the 2 neighbors additional soured prior to now decade and “since then, nothing has been achieved 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 of 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, based on police figures cited by Hebrew newspaper Makor Rishon. Israeli police declined requests to substantiate 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 considerations that Israel is making an attempt to disrupt the established order.
The bridge’s alternative has turn into a trigger célèbre for opposition lawmakers.
Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud occasion and his non secular nationalist allies, lately 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 referred to as for an “quick dialogue concerning the hazard attributable to a collapse of the bridge,” saying “a whole bunch of hundreds of persons are in danger” in the course of the upcoming Jewish Excessive Holidays.
Officers from all sides concerned have been tight-lipped concerning the concern.
Cohen, the engineer, declined to remark, directing inquiries to the Prime Minister’s Workplace, which manages Israel’s affairs on the Jerusalem holy website. 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 state of affairs in full disregard of Jordan.”
He didn’t imagine this bid would work as a result of “Israel’s curiosity in defending good relations with Jordan as a strategic associate are extra essential and weighty.”