A wide-ranging plan for renovation of parts of the Old City of Jerusalem envisions a new gate being broken in the city walls for the first time in 112 years.
The plan, prepared by architect David Shriki as part of a greater plan for renovation of the Western Wall area drawn up by architect Gavriel Kertesz, was presented Tuesday to the municipal Planning and Building Committee and aims to renovate the Jewish Quarter and in particular ease access to the Western Wall Plaza.
The new gate will be an entry to a tunnel that would be hewn through the rock under all the layers of the city, beginning between Zion Gate and Dung Gate, leading to a four-story parking garage under the current parking lot not far from the Western Wall. The planners said both tunnel and garage will be hewn in rock deep beneath the city, leaving its numerous archaeological layers intact.
The last time a new opening was breached in the city walls was in 1898, when Ottoman authorities destroyed part of the wall near Jaffa Gate. The purpose was to allow the passage of the imperial carriage of Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was then visiting the city.
This time, the plan is meant to accommodate the tens of thousands of visitors to the Western Wall, as well as residents of the Jewish Quarter. The parking garage would hold 600 cars, planners said.
The main technical obstacle to the plan is its high cost, raised by the need to cut through solid rock, estimated at hundreds of millions shekels. Some of the budget is meant to come from using the current outdoor parking lot for construction. Both this aspect of the plan and the proposed tunnel and garage have drawn protests from both Muslim religious figures and residents of the Jewish Quarter.
The planning committee did not vote on the plan and will continue discussing it over the coming week.
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