Western Wall Plaza Facilities Cut to Size

Plan aroused objections from planners, Jewish Quarter residents, archaeologists and Palestinians concerned about the status quo.

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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The Western Wall plaza in the Old City of Jerusalem, where a proposed office building and museum will be smaller than originally planned.
The Western Wall plaza in the Old City of Jerusalem, where a proposed office building and museum will be smaller than originally planned.Credit: AP
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

The size of an office building and museum planned for Jerusalem’s Western Wall plaza will be reduced in accordance with a ruling this week by the National Council for Planning and Building’s appeals committee.

The plan, nicknamed Beit Haliba, provoked across-the-board opposition, ranging from planners and Jewish Quarter residents to archaeologists. Opponents asserted the building would reduce the plaza’s size, overshadow it, cause damage to remains of the ancient Roman street underneath and even cause safety problems for Western Wall visitors.

In addition, Palestinians asserted that the building violates the status quo around Temple Mount.

The appeals committee announced this week that it had accepted the need for the building but ruled its size should be smaller and that planned usage of the building should be better defined. The committee announced it was sending the plan back for additional discussion in the District Planning and Building Committee in “light of the sensitivity and importance of the Western Wall plaza.”

The facade of the building, which would cut the width of the plaza by 20 meters, bothered committee members in particular, according to the ruling. The committee stated the building would have a significant presence in the plaza opposite the Western Wall and at a distance of just dozens of meters.

Committee members suggested using the space freed up by having a smaller building to provide shade and seating for the benefit of visitors. The committee also ruled that the main uses of the building should be educational and public, and called for a reduction of usage for offices and services.

“The decision makes it clear that the Western Wall and Western Wall plaza are not a private playing field but rather a world heritage asset,” commented attorney Gilad Barnea, who represented Efraim Holtzberg, one of the plan’s opponents.

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