On Tuesday, Member of Knesset Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the Religious Zionist Party, held a session in the Knesset concerning the dire condition of the Mughrabi Bridge used by Jews to ascend to the Temple Mount. The meeting went on to discuss how Jewish visitation to the site could be encouraged. The meeting came one week before Tisha B’Av (the ninth day of the month of Av), the day commemorating the destruction of the Jewish Temples.
“The situation is very far from what it should be,” Ben-Gvir said about the bridge and the Jewish presence on the Temple Mount. “On the one hand, we should see the glass as half full. It’s so great that we can go to the Temple Mount! But on the other hand, we need to improve. We’re not satisfied with what we have. It’s a good situation but it can be better.”
“The issue of ascending to the Temple Mount has to be at the top of the priorities for the Nation of Israel,” Religious Zionist MK Simcha Rothman said at the beginning of the meeting. “Already for many years, it characterizes our connection to the land of Israel in many ways.”
He addressed the issue of the Mughrabi Bridge which, for many years, has been considered in danger of collapse. Rothman reminded those gathered that it has been less than two months since a design failure led to the Meron disaster on Lag B’Omer.
“This is a safety issue but it is more than a safety issue,” Rothman said. “This is a national issue. We returned to our land. We returned with the famous expression [in 1967] of ‘the Temple Mount is in our hands.’ But this has to come to reality. Arriving at the Temple Mount must be central and not on the sidelines. This has to be an important aspect of our national infrastructure. [How can] the entrance to the Temple Mount [be] a temporary structure? We returned to our land. We need to think about how people will go to the Temple Mount once the Temple is rebuilt. It may not be an immediate need since it will take a day or two to build it.”
“But in the short term, the entrance to the Temple Mount, the holiest site to the Jewish people, cannot be like this, temporary,” Rothman concluded.
Temple Mount activist Yehudah Etzion suggested reopening a section of the Western Wall adjacent to the women’s prayer section called Barclays Gate. This plan would require building a permanent staircase leading up to the Mughrabi Gate. Rotman objected to the plan.
“There’s no bigger embarrassment than the fact that we need approval from [a foreign country] to [replace] the Mughrabi Bridge,” said Bentzi Gopshtein, director of the religious group Lehava. “With the graciousness of heaven, we returned to our land, and we’re sitting in the Knesset. We can’t cry [anymore]. If you choose to cry when you’re able to [take action], you’re sinning.”
Several people at the meeting also addressed obstacles to Jews accessing their holiest site. Non-Muslims may only access the Temple Mount via the Mughrabi Gate, Sunday through Thursday, 7:00 AM-11:00 AM. The site is closed to non-Muslims on Fridays and Saturdays and is closed to non-Muslims on Muslim holidays. The right to pray on the Temple Mount is protected by Israeli law but prohibited by the Israeli police.