Text size

The Israel Antiquities Authority will begin removing the Mugrabi ramp in a few days, despite the fear of Muslim riots.

The ramp, which leads from the Western Wall plaza to one of the Temple Mount Gates, is located in one of the most sensitive places in the world, and plans to carry out excavations under it have therefore been held up by the Shin Bet security service and the prime minister's military secretary for the past two years, for fear of Muslim riots.

Archaeologist Meir Ben-Dov warned yesterday that any digging in the area could lead to bloodshed. "Digging in this place goes way beyond the archaeological sphere. This place is far too sensitive and the price would be much too high," he said.

However, a reliable source told Haaretz that "now that the Palestinian Authority is paralyzed and incapable of resisting, it's an excellent opportunity to carry out the plan."

The need to remove the ramp arose in February 2004, when one of its supporting walls collapsed into the West Wall plaza. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the city eng ineer said that the ramp was unstable and must be removed soon.

However, the prime minister's military secretary and Shin Bet representatives who attended discussions about the ramp objected to removing it. A source who attended these meetings told Haaretz that the former military secretary, Yoav Galant, wondered why the ramp needed to be removed.

Meanwhile, the cabinet decided in January 2005 to transfer responsibility for the Western Wall area to the Western Wall Heritage Fund, a group close to settlers' organizations that are active in East Jerusalem. The fund initiated a plan to replace the ramp with a bridge, to which the government contributed NIS 5 million.

However, the plan raised strong objections from senior Israeli archaeologists, who said that building the bridge would severely damage the important archaeological site south of the ramp.

The Mugrabi Gate serves non-Muslim visitors who enter the Temple Mount, as well as the security services, which use it to enter the Temple Mount during riots.