The walkway was damaged by inclement weather in 2004. The new walkway was temporary, made of wood, and needs to be replaced. That’s all it takes for a wave of conspiracy paranoia that Israel is out to commit dastardly deeds against the al-Aqsa mosque.
The bottom line is that there is no basis in reality for the objections except supremacism, antisemitism, and likely a fear that any excavations may bring forth more evidence of the non-Muslim history of the area. The Muslim side simply does not want Jews touching, thinking about, or looking at the site, now or ever. “Violence feared over repairs at Jerusalem shrine,” by Amy Teibel for the Associated Press, December 8:
JERUSALEM (AP) “” Jerusalem municipal officials said they will shut down a walkway to a contested shrine at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a move liable to touch off a new round of violence between Muslims and Jews.
Any work in the area around the Old City compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary draws fierce condemnation and sometimes violence from Palestinians, many of whom suspect Israel wants to harm Muslim shrines. An official with the Muslim clerical body that runs the complex warned that protests were liable to break out this time, too.
The municipality says the wooden walkway leading to one of the hilltop site’s gates “” built as a temporary structure after a centuries-old ramp was damaged in a 2004 snowstorm “” is a fire hazard and structurally unsound and must be replaced.
In a letter released Thursday, Jerusalem city engineer Shlomo Eshkol informed authorities of his plan to block access to the walkway to all but security forces. The shutdown could take place immediately after a one-week public comment period.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu halted a plan to demolish the walkway last month, fearing a regional backlash at a time when pre-election violence was roiling Egypt. A spokesman for Netanyahu was not immediately available Thursday for comment on the Jerusalem municipality’s latest move.
The walkway is not the only access to the contested complex, which Israel captured from Jordan along with the rest of east Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war. But the compound’s centrality to both Islam and Judaism makes it one of the most combustible sites in the world. Clashes there in the past have ignited broader violence.
Muslims believe their Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven from the site, which is home to the golden-capped Dome of the Rock shrine and the Al-Aqsa mosque. It is Islam’s third-holiest shrine.
Credit where credit is due: this wording is a refreshing change of pace from “The Prophet Muhammad.”
The compound is venerated by Jews as the site of their biblical temples. The Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest prayer site, stands at the foot of the complex, and a women’s prayer area is situated right near the walkway.
A Muslim clerical trust known as the Waqf runs the compound under Israel’s overall security control.
Yusuf Natsheh, director of the Waqf administration, said the Waqf was not consulted about the plan to shut down the walkway, which he called a “disastrous” policy liable to touch off protests.
“This is a very sensitive issue,” he said. “It is so close to the mosque, and Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims … all over the world will be unhappy.”
They think Israelis are “eradicating their historic road, they are eradicating their heritage” under the guise of security concerns, he said.
Nearly five years ago, hundreds of Israeli police fired stun grenades and tear gas to disperse thousands of Muslim worshippers who hurled stones, bottles and trash in outrage over earlier Israeli repair work in the area.