Israel’s decision to close a bridge to the Temple Mount deemed unfit for use is a “declaration of religious war on the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem,” according to a statement by a Hamas spokesman.
Fawzi Barhum told the AFP that the closure of the Mughrabi (also known as the Rambam or the Moroccans’ gate) “is a serious step that shows the Zionist scheme of aggression against the Al-Aqsa mosque. The statement follows remarks by head Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erkat last week, who called the safety measure a sign of Israel’s “determination to Judaize Jerusalem and to take over the city’s Muslim holy places.” The Muslim Waqf has also demanded that cease any work to renovate the bridge to the gate.
The Jerusalem municipality ordered that the wooden bridge, which leads from the Western Wall plaza up to the Temple Mount, be closed after Jerusalem’s chief engineer deemed it structurally unsound and a fire hazard. Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered the demolition and replacement of the structure be postponed, when regional tempers flared in reaction to the idea and it appeared the issue would influence Egyptian elections.
Despite the necessity of the closure, it complicates Jewish and Christian ascension to the Temple Mount, being the only gate which currently enables non-Muslims to gain access to the site. At present, 10 of the Temple Mount’s 15 gates are in use. Jews who arrived at the Mughrabi gate on Sunday in order to ascend to the Mount were denied any access to the site because of the gate’s closure.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin told German ambassador to Israel Andreas Michaelis on Monday that Israel would re-open the bridge. “Four days after the Six-Day War we decided to allow Muslims to remain in control over the Temple Mount, even though this drew the ire of many Jews and was viewed as an abandonment of the holy site to Muslims,” Rivlin said. “The Mugrabi Bridge was built with unanimous consent.”
According to Army Radio, Michaelis replied that Germany believes Israel is closing the bridge for improvements, and suggested an “Arab tendency to create conspiracy theories around the bridge.”
The original earthen ramp to the Mughrabi Gate collapsed during a snowstorm in 2004. A temporary bridge was built, but when Israel began repairing the ramp in 2007, Muslim calls for an intifada and rioting in Jerusalem and Jordan caused the project to be postponed. During that closure, Jews were redirected to the Shalshelet (Chain) Gate on the western side of the Temple Mount.
Knesset members Danny Danon (Likud) and Uri Ariel (National Union) have both expressed strong disapproval for the notion of denying Jewish access to the Temple Mount because of the bridge closure.
“There is no reason that the state of Israel, whose capital is Jerusalem, will close off the Temple Mount, which is the bastion of Judaism in Israel and the entire world, and is one of the central pillars of the state of Israel,” MK Danon said.
“It is unthinkable that during the construction Jews will be delayed from ascending to the Mount for even a single minute,” said MK Ariel.