Renovation work on the Mughrabi Bridge at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City began on Sunday, according to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which is responsible for the site. The temporary construction has been deemed by experts to be at risk of collapse.
The project will take several days, the authority said, and part of the women’s prayer section—where the bridge is located—will be closed off.
Last month, municipal engineer Ofer Cohen, who was hired by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, notified the state of the bridge’s poor condition and warned that unless proper measures were taken, it could lead to a disaster as deadly as the Lag B’Omer stampede that took the lives of 45 people in May.
Cohen inspected the bridge shortly after that disaster, which shook the country to its core, and deemed it hazardous. The wooden part of the bridge, which sits on a steel base, is rotting and dilapidated, and poses an immediate threat to those using it and to those underneath it, according to Cohen.
The engineer submitted his urgent recommendation in May that although the bridge—providing sole access for police, Israelis and tourists visiting the Temple Mount—is due to be replaced by September, it really should be immediately torn down due to the danger of imminent collapse.
Jerusalem City Engineer Yoel Even urged Mordechai Eliav, director of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, to promote the construction of a permanent bridge at the Western Wall. In the letter obtained by Israel Hayom, Even said the current bridge should be renovated to prevent its collapse but also emphasized the need for permanent construction.
In the meantime, in response to the engineer’s report, the state said it would replace the wooden beams that are in bad shape.
The move drew criticism from many. Former Jerusalem City Council member Mina Fenton called the decision to only replace the wooden beams “a crime.” She pointed out that construction works would not finish in time for the September deadlines, and thus, the lives of women who visit the Western Wall Plaza will continue to be at risk.
Ariel Kahana and Hanan Greenwood contributed to this report.