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The Jerusalem District Court's president last week rejected a plan to expand the women's section of the Western Wall. The enlargement was planned as part of efforts to rebuild the ramp leading to the Mugrabi Gate, a centuries-old passageway between the Western Wall Plaza and the Temple Mount.

After the earthen ramp leading to the gate collapsed in 2004, the Antiquities Authority constructed a temporary wooden bridge to serve visitors to the mount. According to Islamic tradition, Mugrabi Gate is the only entry by which non-Muslims may enter the mount complex.

In March of last year, the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee authorized the construction of a new bridge to replace the collapsed ramp.

Earlier this year, Mahmoud Masalha, a scholar of Temple Mount history, petitioned the court against the plan, claiming the damage caused to the ramp was negligible, and could be fixed without replacing the structure entirely.

The real force behind the building plan, Masalha maintained, is the Western Wall Heritage Foundation - a nonprofit body under the aegis of the Prime Minister's Office - whose objective was to enlarge the women's section. Expanding the women's section, he said, violates the interfaith status quo in Jerusalem and is likely to undermine Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Judge Moussia Arad accepted the petition only partially, rejecting the expansion of the prayer section while upholding the state's decision to rebuild the ramp.