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Temple Mount Ramp to Be Removed

reprinted from Haaretz
12:53 Jun 30, '06 / 4 Tammuz 5766

by Hana Levi Julian

A ramp which leads from the Western Wall to the Temple Mount will be removed by the Israel Antiquities Authority soon, putting into action a plan that has been on the table for the past two years.

The Mugrabi ramp, located in one of the most politically, militarily and spiritually sensitive places in the world, was nonetheless deemed unstable in February 2004 after one of its supporting walls collapsed in the Western Wall plaza.

At the time, city engineers said the ramp, which is used by non-Muslim visitors to enter the Temple Mount, should be removed. The ramp is also used by security services to access the area during riots.

The plan was put on hold, however, due to political and security concerns. General Security Service representatives nixed the idea, as did the Prime Minister's military secretary. Plans for archaeological excavations at the site were also held up for fear of Muslim riots.

"Now that the Palestinian Authority is paralyzed and incapable of resisting," an unnamed source told the Haaretz news service, "it is an excellent opportunity to carry out the plan."

Fears of bloodshed nonetheless haunt archaeologists. "Digging in this place goes way beyond the archaeological sphere," warned archaeologist Meir Ben Dov on Thursday. "This place is far too sensitive and the price would be much too high," he said.

The Western Wall Heritage Fund was given responsibility for the holiest area in the world in January 2005. The organization is linked with Jewish groups that actively settle areas in East Jerusalem.

Archaeologists also opposed a plan by the Fund to build a bridge in place of the ramp, saying the structure would severely damage the archaeological site south of the ramp. The Israeli government had contributed NIS 5 million to the plan at the time.



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