RAMALLAH, October 10,(JMCC) - Jewish municipal officials last week unveiled a project to breach the Old City walls for the first time in over a century. The proposal threatens to jeopardise the delicate status quo of one of the world’s most disputed religious sites.
For Israeli officials, the matter is merely one of urban planning. They want to build a gate leading to a new underground car park to improve access to the Wailing Wall, the most revered surviving structure in Judaism, and to an equally contentious multi-purpose centre that is to be built in front of it.
But for Palestinians, the proposal represents a further assault on their claims to the Old City, home to some of the holiest sites in Islam, and with it the real possibility of a violent backlash from their supporters.
Since they were built by Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman sultan, 472 years ago, the walls of the Old City have only been breached four times – most recently in 1898 to create access for a large entourage led by Kaiser Wilhelm II.
's capture of the Old City and surrounding areas of East Jerusalem
in 1967, there has been good reason to retain this policy of architectural diffidence.
In 1996, 80 people were killed in three days of Palestinian riots after Israel began construction on a tunnel close to the Temple Mount, the site of the two Jewish temples of antiquity which are now home to the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest in Islam. Jews regard the mount as their holiest religious site and mourning the temple's most recent destruction, by the Romans in AD70, is a central tenet of their faith.
Further underground construction is likely, however, to renew a long-standing belief by some Palestinians that Israel is intent on tearing down the mosques to build the Third Temple, a suspicion that even many critics of Israel say is unfounded.
But although the Wailing Wall, which is part of the surviving western perimeter of the Temple, is likely to remain under Jewish sovereignty under any peace deal, the Palestinian cabinet said on Sunday that building there now would compromise one of the most delicate elements of the negotiations. Read
more at The Telegraph…