The Jerusalem Municipality decided to take down the hill, which ascends from the wall entrance to the Temple Mount, for fear that it might otherwise collapse. The walkway up the hill leads to the Mughrabim Gate, currently the only entrance for Jews to the mount. The bridge replacing the hill will also run into the gate.
The plans are a bonanza for students of Jerusalem history, as the removal of the hill will uncover an 8-meter-high (26-foot-high) gate leading into the mount. The gate, dating from the period of the Second Temple, is known as Barclay’s Gate, after the 19th-century American consul who first identified it.
In addition, archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar said, “It’s not every day that we get to excavate so close to the Western Wall. We expect to find, as we did in other excavations nearby, the Roman street alongside the Temple Mount structure and many other treasures.” She said that Barclay’s Gate descends several meters (yards) below the current street level of the Western Wall plaza. “Today, only the top of its lintel can be seen [from the women’s section]. It is very beautiful, and when it is uncovered, it will be one of the most beautiful scenes in the Old City.”
The hill in question, located to the right of the women’s section when facing the wall, is an ancient one, comprising several layers of old buildings. Mazar said some of them may be as old as the Mamluke period, about 700 years ago, but under them are remnants from the Second Temple period, 2,000 years ago. “I assume that they will study these structures and document whatever needs to be learned, but in the end, the real find lies behind them. I assume, therefore, that the authorities will remove whatever now forms the hill, so that the full glory of the wall and the gate can be seen…It should be a matter of months.”
The entire area that is currently the Western Wall plaza was filled with low buildings when Israel liberated the area during the Six-Day War of June 1967 and was later cleared away—except for the section containing the walkway hill leading to the Mughrabim Gate.
City engineers worry that the collapse of the hill, which began last winter, could continue this year, leading to a total collapse. Part of the women’s section of the Western Wall plaza is already closed off for fear that worshipers below may be injured by falling rocks and earth, or by a major cave-in. The collapse began following a week of heavy rains, a snowstorm, and an earthquake.
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