Tourists visiting Jerusalem were very unhappy to discover Monday that the Mughrabi Bridge was closed to pedestrians. The gate is considered to be the only access point for non-Muslim visitors to Temple Mount.
The bridge was closed on Sunday over safety hazards. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he instructed his office to examine alternative access routes to Temple Mount through the El-Silsileh Gate, which is located near the Mughrabi Gate.
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The decision to close the bridge – which leads from the Western Wall Plaza to Temple Mount – was made following a demand by the City to that effect.
Police sources slammed the decision, saying it bears no legal standing and that city officials are "trying to pass the buck" for the consequences which may follow the decision – consequences the police would have to deal with.
The Mughrabi Bridge (Photo: Shlomi Cohen)
"The City is playing games," a senior source in the Jerusalem Police told Ynet. "On the one had, it's demanding that the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, the Western Wall Rabbi's Office and the Jerusalem Police close the bridge – when it is well aware of the significance of such a move; and on the other hand, it claims there was no official order to close it, only a municipal demand."
The source stressed that the bridge had been closed for pedestrian access only and that security forces would still be allowed to use it should their presence on Temple Mount be needed, such as in case of riots.
"The bridge should be open to everyone, not just Muslim," Wayne, a German tourist who is visiting Israel for the fourth time, told Ynet. "This is an unfortunate decision. It's a lovely place to visit but unfortunately we can't go there. There's much to see in Israel, but Temple Mount is one of our favorite places."
Another South-African tourist, visiting Jerusalem for the first time, told Ynet he was disappointed by the decision: "It was supposed to be one of the highlights of our trip. It's a shame we can't go there."
Yehuda Glick, chairman of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, said the decision is also likely to frustrate some of the Jewish worshipers: "Temple Mount is sacred to the people of Israel and to Christians too. It has 12 gates, 11 of which are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for Muslim worshipers, who can use them freely, with no security checks.
"There is only one gate which is open to Jews and tourists, and it's open only five days a week, for three hours a day, and mandates a thorough security check."
Glick added that despite the rigorous demands imposed on Jews and tourists visiting Temple Mount, "hundreds of Jews and thousands of tourists ask to come here every day.
"After the bridge first collapsed in 2004, plans for a new bridge were submitted and approved, but the government of Israel, which fears its own shadow when in comes to Temple Mount, was too scared to implement them, over concerns of the Muslims' reaction. So we are left with a rickety bridge."
Glick urges the government to "implement the freedom of worship for Jews and allow them to enter Temple Mount through more than one gate, until a new bridge is built."
The City of Jerusalem said that "The City Engineer ordered the closure of the Mughrabi Bridge since it is a hazard to public safety and according to professional evaluations may crumble and catch fire.
"According to the law, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation had seven days to appeal the decision and it chose not to do so."
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report
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