Western Wall - Emil Salman - 2009
Jews praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, December 25, 2009 Photo by Emil Salman
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The government yesterday approved an NIS 85 million budget to extend a renovation plan for the Western Wall area in Jerusalem by another five years.

The budget will allow a number of construction projects to move forward, among a new entrance to the plaza from the Dung Gate via a tunnel and construction of two large buildings that will house a police station, museum, toilets and a visitors center.

The site will continue to be managed by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation headed by the Western Wall rabbi, Shmuel Rabinovich.

Among those expressing opposition to the plan were several senior archaeologists, who argued that construction at the site will destroy very significant antiquities from the Roman period. Islamic officials said they were also opposed to the plans on the grounds the renovations will change the status quo in a sensitive area.

Supporters of the plan said the renovations are necessary in light of the increase in the number of visitors to the site from an annual 2 million a decade ago to the current 8 million.

The project, to be overseen by the Prime Minister's Office and managed by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, is to be jointly funded by the Interior Ministry (NIS 15 million ), the Transportation Ministry (NIS 10 million ) the Tourism Ministry (NIS 10 million ) the Public Security Ministry (NIS 5 million ), the Defense Ministry (NIS 15 million ), mainly the Education Ministry (NIS 10 million ) and the Israel Lands Administration (NIS 20 million ).