Jerusalem’s city engineer has ordered that the only access route for non-Muslims to the Temple Mount be closed immediately. The Western Wall Heritage Foundation has one week to submit objections. Haaretz reports:
Jerusalem municipality officials stressed that the wooden bridge poses a severe security threat since it is highly flammable and in danger of collapsing. They warned that if a fire breaks out it could spread to the Temple Mount.
I can’t help but thinking that this is a political move, not primarily an issue of safety. The bridge has been made of wood since it was constructed and did not become “highly flammable” yesterday. As for a fire spreading to the Temple Mount, the doors at the gate might burn, but everything else in the area is made of stone. In other words, there seem to be other reasons for this urgent order. Of course, is there anything in Jerusalem that is not political? Yet the news reports make no such suggestion, so it seems worth pointing out to those less familiar with the situation.
A brief review of recent history of access to the Temple Mount may be helpful:
Sept. 2000 – Muslims close access to Temple Mount and its shrines to all non-Muslims.
Aug. 20, 2003 – Israel re-opens the Temple Mount to tourists over Muslim objections (photos here). Shrines remained closed.
Feb. 14, 2004 – The earthen ramp to the Mughrabi Gate collapses after a snowstorm (photos here).
Mar. 2005 – A wooden bridge is constructed to permit access to the Temple Mount.
Jan. 2007 – Excavations begin on the earthen ramp (photos here). Muslims protest after being told by
their leaders that the Temple Mount is being undermined. Israelis halt the excavation in June.
Mar. 2011 – Construction of a new bridge is authorized by an Israeli judge.
June 2011 – Israel delays construction of a new bridge until September.
Oct. 2011 – Jerusalem’s city engineer orders that the Mughrabi bridge be repaired or closed.
Nov. 2011 – Prime Minister Netanyahu orders that closure of the ramp be postponed.
This review excludes other relevant events, including the opening of the Western Wall tunnel, the illegal excavations on the Temple Mount, the resultant bulges on the southern and eastern walls, and the continuing political impact of these events.
Today’s story is reported by the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz. An aerial photo with the relevant sites labeled is posted here.