Photo Credit: Eitan Elhadaz-Barak / TPS
The Western Wall and Mughrabi foot bridge to the Temple Mount amidst the second coronavirus lockdown in Jerusalem's Old City, Sept. 26, 2020

The temporary wooden bridge leading from the Kotel plaza to the Temple Mount is on the verge of collapsing, and the government must intervene immediately to avert a mass casualty tragedy, a senior Jerusalem city official warned Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Fleur Hassan Nahoum, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, sent a letter to Bennett earlier this month warning that the Mughrabi Bridge, the only access point for non-Muslims to the Temple Mount, is in a dangerous and dilapidated state and that the authorities’ warnings for the past 17 years have gone unheeded.

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Hassan Nahoum noted that the bridge passes above the women’s section at the Kotel, and “despite the danger, despite the warnings, nothing has been done so far and thousands of worshipers may be injured as a result of the collapse of the bridge.”

Earlier this year, worshippers turned to the High Court of Justice for assistance, and the court ordered the state to respond by June 20, but it has failed to do so.

In their appeal, the worshippers wrote that “in view of the heavy disaster in Meron,” earlier this year that killed 45 people, “the need to take immediate action in order to prevent the next disaster is even more significant. Due to the authorities’ long-standing failure to deal with the matter, the petitioners have no choice but to go to court in this procedure.”

The newly established government asked for a month-long extension and the court granted it.

The district construction committee has long given the green light to start renovation work at the site, but no progress has been made.

Hassan Nahoum noted that the bridge serves as a major path to the Temple Mount where “countless visitors and worshipers pass each year,” and is also used by the police and the Border Police, who secure the mountain and its surroundings.

“A collapse of the bridge or even a partial collapse could cause a heavy disaster,” she warned.

Hassan Nahoum presented the opinion of engineer Ofer Cohen who said that the bridge made of wooden beams is not proper and therefore there was a danger it may collapse at any moment.

“Action must be taken without delay to replace the temporary bridge with a steel bridge that will avoid the need for routine maintenance and will also provide adequate protection against fires,” she demanded.

As the holder of a tourism portfolio in the Jerusalem City Council and as a woman who prays in the women’s sections at the Kotel, I ask you, Mr. Prime Minister, to use your power to save the lives of the worshipers and instruct to enclose the area near the bridge within the prayer plaza,” she concluded.
Previous attempts to renovate the bridge were met with Jordan’s opposition and Muslim riots.

The National Security Council has stated that “this is a complex political issue, which is currently being examined in depth by the relevant bodies. At the end of the examination, the National Security Council’s recommendation will be transferred to the political level.”

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.
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