The young right-wingers who created unnecessary panic on our border with Jordan on Monday over the Mughrabi Bridge closure in Jerusalem deserve a heavy and swift response from law enforcement. Their provocation could have dealt a serious blow to our relations with the Hashemite royal court. Still, this incident is not a significant factor in the debate over events at the Temple Mount.
The Jerusalem municipal engineer's decision to close the Mughabri Bridge and thus prevent Jews and Christians from entering the Temple Mount is problematic. If the decision is not immediately retracted it could lead to serious diplomatic woes, not to mention blood, sweat and tears. In the Holy Basin of the three major religions, there is nothing more stable than the status quo. Setting back the clock to a time when Jews could not regularly set foot on the Temple Mount would make it difficult for any future government to restore that access.
From an engineering point of view, the Mughrabi Bridge is unsound. It poses a danger to the personal safety of those who use it. At one point, Israel wanted to build an iron bridge in its place, a bridge that would remain stable for generations to come. But King Abdullah of Jordan asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to refrain from doing so, and Netanyahu complied. It is in Jerusalem's interest to preserve the delicate fabric of our relations with Amman. In the past, Police Maj. Gen. Michael (Mickey) Levy was even sent to Jordan to coordinate efforts for reinforcing an unsteady wall in the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Had the wall collapsed, Israel could have experienced a rift with the entire civilized world.
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Still, we must maintain access to the Temple Mount at any cost. Even without replacing the bridge. That would be fine. The temporary bridge could be repaired. The main thing is to guarantee a constant stream of Jews and Christians into the stunning compound that houses the Al-Aqsa and Omar Mosques.
The Arab position on this issue is utterly negative. They oppose closing the Mughrabi Bridge but also favor it. They want to prevent Jews' entry to the Temple Mount but also seek to remove Israel's right to make any decisions regarding the site. Al-Aqsa Association head Kamal Rayan said on Monday that the Jews are responsible for the state of the Mughrabi Bridge because they dug under it. This statement goes to the heart of the dispute.
Ever since the Six-Day War, Jews have dug near the Western Wall, at the foot of the Temple Mount and to the south, in the City of David, where they built an exemplary archaeological park. Had Arabs cooperated with Israel in this venture, all the nations of the region could have reaped the economic benefits of millions of tourists with a passion for ancient archaeology. Nor has Israel expunged or devalued Arab archaeological treasures. Witness the glorious Ummayad palace to Al-Aqsa's south.
The problem is that Arabs want to shield their eyes from archaeological evidence that demonstrates a Jewish connection to the place. For instance, the street of the Valley of Cheesemakers where archaeologists found a stone with the Hebrew inscription "L'beit hatekiah lehachriz," indicating the place where a Temple priest stood and blew a trumpet to proclaim the onset of the Sabbath. The stone probably formed part of the Temple Mount's bannister and rolled onto the street below at the time of the Second Temple's destruction. It lay buried there for almost 2,000 years.
Nor do the Arabs want to see the Western Wall tunnels, or the many ancient Hebrew inscriptions in and around the Temple Mount. Their greatest fear is that continued professional archaeological work will uncover remnants of the Second Temple -- a building that Yasser Arafat brazenly proclaimed never existed.
Israel must always be ready to extend a hand to Arab archaeologists, as well as to listen to the concerns of Jordanians, Palestinians and Muslims. However, when it comes to having access to the magnificent vessels of Jewish history, the famous proclamation of the Six-Day War applies: The Temple Mount is in our hands.