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Rambam (Mughrabi) Gate Dig Postponed Again

reprinted from Arutz 7
2 Cheshvan 5768, 14 October 07 09:12

(IsraelNN.com) A Ministerial Committee decision to renew the excavation by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) at the Rambam (Mughrabi) Gate has been put off due to an appeal by Sports and Culture Minister Raleb Majadele (Labor) to bring the matter before the entire cabinet. The Israeli Arab minister said the work should be coordinated with the Wakf Islamic Authority, and that the decision did not reflect a desire to promote the diplomatic process.

The excavation, which was part of a project to build a new footbridge near the Rambam (Mughrabi) Gate to the entrance of the Temple Mount, was halted in June after violent protests and riots by Muslims who claimed the work would damage the nearby Al Aksa mosque. International and Israeli engineers who inspected the site said there was no danger of damage to the structure, which is at least 60 meters away from the dig.

Under the law, Ministerial Committee decisions cannot be carried out for at least two weeks following an appeal by a government minister.

Majadle Slams Renewal of Mughrabi Dig

reprinted from The Jerusalem Post
Oct. 14, 2007

A decision by the governmental committee on Jerusalem affairs to renew digging at the Mughrabi Gate to the Temple Mount may spark riots ahead of the Annapolis peace conference, Science, Culture and Sport Minister Ghaleb Majadle wrote Sunday in a letter to Cabinet Secretary Ovad Yehezkel.

In the letter, a copy of which was also sent to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Majadle, who is also in charge of the Antiquities Authority, appealed the September 25 decision.

"I was prevented from participating in this governmental committee due to a personal matter that could not be postponed," Majadle wrote, adding, "It is common knowledge that this issue is extremely important to me. I followed this matter closely even before I was appointed minister in charge of the Antiquities Authority."

"There was not one representative of the Muslim community…at the committee," Majadle wrote, before warning of the possible volatility of renewing the dig.

"This is a matter of utmost sensitivity, and it is not in the government's interest to make critical decisions without first hearing [the opinions] of all of the relevant bodies," he wrote.

Two weeks ago, the governmental Committee on Jerusalem Affairs voted to resume archaeological work at the site, Immigrant Absorption Minister Ya'acov Edri, a committee member, told The Associated Press. Edery said the dig had been held up since early summer for bureaucratic reasons related to planning permits.

"I'm sorry the work was held up at all, because the walkway was supposed to be almost finished by now," Edery said. He said some aspects of the plan have been modified, but no major changes were made.

Dalit Menzil, a spokeswoman for the Israel Antiquities Authority, said the agency was waiting for government orders to resume the dig. She said "preservation, documentation and stabilization" work has continued uninterrupted.

AP contributed to this report

Dig to be Renewed at Rambam (Mughrabi) Gate

reprinted from Arutz 7
2 Cheshvan 5768, 14 October 07 10:02

(IsraelNN.com) Excavations at the site of the Rambam (Mughrabi) Gate near the Western Wall are to be renewed within the coming days, despite concern by the Foreign Ministry that the move will affect next month’s Mideast summit in Annapolis, Maryland.

The Prime Minister's Office said there was no objection to resuming work on the dig, which is to precede construction of a new pedestrian ramp leading to the entrance of the Temple Mount to replace one that was broken and dangerous. The Ministerial Committee on Jerusalem approved the renewal approximately two weeks ago, a decision that was endorsed by Ministers Avi Dichter, Rafi Eitan and Yaakov Edery. The construction site is located some 60 meters away from the Al Aksa Mosque at the Temple Mount.

Construction of the pedestrian bridge was halted in June after the Islamic Wakf Authority and Arabs around the world fiercely expressed their objections to the construction in violent demonstrations, claiming the work would damage the mosque. Israeli engineers inspected the site, as did international representatives; none found any damage to the Islamic structure.

Ministers Okay Renewing Disputed Mugrabi Gate Dig

reprinted from Haaretz
14/10/2007

by Akiva Eldar

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) is set to renew its excavations in the coming days at the Mugrabi Gate near the Western Wall in Jerusalem, which may exacerbate tensions with neighboring countries ahead of next month's planned Annapolis peace summit.

The excavations, to prepare for the construction of a new bridge to the Mugrabi Gate, between the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, were stopped in June after they sparked protests from the Palestinian Authority and Arab countries. However, the Ministerial Committee on Jerusalem approved their renewal about two weeks ago.

The Jordanian ambassador to Israel, Ali Ayed, asked for clarifications on Friday from the Foreign Ministry and warned that a renewal of the excavations might sabotage next month's Annapolis summit.

The committee's decision was approved by ministers Avi Dichter, Rafi Eitan and Jacob Edery, over the objections of the Foreign Ministry, whose representatives told the ministerial committee Israel had pledged to several countries to prevent increased tensions around the Temple Mount. Minister of Culture, Science and Sport Ghaleb Majadele, under whose aegis the IAA falls, told the committee that renewing the work was not in keeping with the desire to promote a diplomatic process, and that the all such work should be coordinated with the Waqf, the Muslim religious trust.

Haaretz has learned that the decision to renew work came after pressure on the government by the rabbi in charge of the Western Wall and the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which is in charge of maintaining the Western Wall plaza and surroundings.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's bureau said it saw no problem with renewing the work, and its halt in recent months reflected planning problems, and not a political decision.

The IAA said conservation and documentation had been ongoing, and that excavations would be renewed when the appropriate instructions were received.

The IAA began a salvage dig at the site at the beginning of the year as part of a Jerusalem municipality plan to build a new bridge for tourists from the Western Wall plaza up to the Temple Mount. In the face of opposition in Israel and abroad due to possible undermining of the foundations of the Temple Mount, and following a visit to the site by experts from Turkey, the municipality stopped the excavations and announced they would resume only after the plan was authorized as part of the city master plan.

The Jerusalem Planning and Construction Council gave the green light on a program last August that was much more modest than the original. Now in the final process of approval, it takes into consideration architects' and archaeologists' concerns that the bridge could cause damage to the antiquities and obstruct the view of the Temple Mount's western and southern walls. Another objection raised was that the project would involve construction in the Southern Wall Archaeological Park, which was said to be a dangerous precedent that might spread to other such sites.

The Ir Amim association demanded over the weekend in a letter to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz that he instruct the relevant bodies, including the IAA, not to reopen the dig at the Mugrabi Gate until the bridge is approved as part of the municipal master plan and receives all appropriate authorizations.

Ir Amim's legal counsel, Danny Zeidman, wrote to Mazuz that the excavations were not for maintenance purposes only, but were extensive and intended to expose and remove archaeological strata from the modern and Ottoman periods.

Ir Amim warned that if work was begun before authorization for the bridge was completed, it would put the legality of the construction to the test. The association said the law required reporting such work to the local planing and construction committee at least 15 days before the work started. As far as is known, such a report was not made to the authorities in Jerusalem.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has listed the Mugrabi Gate as a World Heritage Site. A UNESCO source told Haaretz that in June the Foreign Ministry told the UN body that the work had been stopped except for "stabilization work."

The chair of the government committee that oversees UNESCO work in Israel, Professor Mike Turner, wrote in a position paper in July that the conservation and protection of the archaeological remains from various historical and cultural periods and their integration into the archaeological park in the Western Wall plaza area must be assured; that safe access must be provided to the Mugrabi Gate in consideration of historic pathways; and that the site must be designed in an authentic manner and ensure the integrity of the site while leaving the option of an overall plan for the area from the Western Wall to the Old City walls. Turner said his statement was prepared in cooperation with the IAA. Turner also stated that Israel had to coordinate its construction at the site with UNESCO.

 

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