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Monday, January 15, 2007

New bridge to Mugrabi gate causes controversy

A month ago, I reported that the bridge that replaced the collapsing ramp to the Mugrabi gate was collapsing. The Mugrabi gate is the main entrance to the Temple Mount, at least for non-Muslims.

Now, the Jerusalem Post is reporting that archaeologists are outraged over a planned permanent bridge that slices across an important archaeological garden:
The new bridge, which has received a green light from the city's planning committee and the blessing of the rabbi of the Western Wall, is slated to tower above the archeological garden next to the site and will be supported by as many as eight pylons anchored in that garden, Jerusalem district archeologist Yuval Baruch said Sunday.

A salvage excavation is starting at the site this week, Baruch said, adding that the three pylons approved so far had been placed as close as possible to the sidewalk in an effort not to detract from the archeological garden.

The site, located outside the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount, has been deemed one of the world's most significant archeological parks.

The plan to construct the new bridge straight through the archeological garden has provoked fierce opposition by archeologists, who say that the bridge will inevitably damage antiquities.

"What is being done is a crime against one of the world's top archeological places, and the Antiquities Authority is lending its hand to this crime, the destruction of archeology," said Dr. Eilat Mazar, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Shalem Center.

Mazar noted that there is no need for the bridge - whose planned length has nearly tripled - to run through the garden. Originally, the route for the bridge ran between the Western Wall and the site.

"The archeological garden is of primary importance to the future and history of Jerusalem and under no circumstance should be touched," said Professor Amos Kloner, former Jerusalem district archeologist at the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Kloner lambasted the IAA for succumbing to "foreign interests" in approving the plan and forgoing its mandate to preserve the archeological site.
I'd love to hear what 'foreign interests' he has in mind.


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