Video: Dr. Gideon Avni, IAA Director of Excavations, discusses the Mugrabi ramp reconstruction project

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 Government approves continuation of excavations at Mugrabi Gate ramp


(Israel Antiquities Authority)

(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

The Government today (Sunday), 11 February 2007, unanimously approved a draft decision by which excavations will continue at the Mugrabi Gate ramp.  

The draft passed with the support of all Ministers present; three ministers were absent from the discussion.

The proposal determines:

  1. To continue with the planned construction of the Mugrabi Gate ramp in a way that allows completion in the least possible time. To the extent that a municipal building plan will be required – one will be brought for approval as quickly as possible.
  2. The Foreign Ministry will continue to deal with the international aspects, including in regard with UNESCO.
  3. Continuation of coordination with international bodies, while maintaining full transparency of events at the site.
  4. The ISA and the Israel Police will continue operational and intelligence preparedness.
  5. Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Yaacov Edery will be responsible for this issue.
  6. Information activities will be coordinated with the Prime Minister’s Media Advisor.

After being briefed, all ministers unanimously agreed that the excavations cause no damage whatsoever to any Islamic holy site.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert tells Cabinet:

Prime Minister Olmert said that work on the Mugrabi Gate bridge – outside the Temple Mount – is necessary because the previous ramp had collapsed and the interim wooden bridge is a safety hazard, as was determined by the Jerusalem city engineer. A new bridge is necessary for the welfare of visitors and tourists. The bridge will also be at the disposal of the security forces in order, for example, to prevent stones from being hurled at the Western Wall plaza. The Prime Minister also said that proper staff work – involving the Jerusalem municipality, the Antiquities Authority, the Israel Police, the Public Security Ministry, the Mossad, the ISA and Minister Edery’s office – had been carried out over several months. The Defense and Foreign ministries were updated.  Ministers and other relevant officials discussed the issue on 25 January 2007 and gave final approval to the plan to build a bridge up to the Mugrabi Gate.

The Prime Minister said: "I have heard claims regarding the professional activity of the Antiquities Authority. I vigorously reject them. Professional archaeological work was done here. During the staff work, the relevant Jerusalem municipality official issued a permit for the construction of the bridge. Today, Attorney General Meni Mazuz is checking whether or not a more detailed planning process, namely a municipal building plan, is necessary and we will, of course, act in accordance with any directive."

Prime Minister Olmert made it clear that in any case, and in accordance with any planning procedure, Antiquities Authority excavations are necessary according to the Antiquities Authority Law. These excavations will continue. "I have instructed all elements involved to work with complete transparency and to show anyone who is interested there is an essential need to build a new bridge. Anyone who goes there sees this for himself. There is no activity that is designed to dig under the Temple Mount. This is activity that is taking place outside the [Temple Mount] wall only."

International officials, including very senior officials in the US and other countries, were updated during the planning stage. Islamic extremist elements are seeking to incite and inflame even though they know for a certainty that there is no activity designed to harm the Temple Mount. Israel guards, and has always guarded, the holy places of all faiths, including Islam, and will assure freedom of worship. It is intolerable that domestic Islamic extremist elements are trying to fan the flames in a wholly unjustified manner.