Rambam Gate footbridge
Rambam Gate footbridgeIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Pressure from nationalist MKs helped Jerusalem figure out how to re-open the Temple Mount for Jews. A tale from the Wise Men of Chelm?

A Jerusalem engineer ordered the city to close the bridge that leads from the Western Wall Plaza to the Temple Mount, the only entrance for Jews and tourists to visit the holy site.

He ruled that the Rambam Bridge, also known as the Mughrabi Bridge, is too dangerous to use, partly because the wooden structure is flammable. It was built after the older stone bridge collapsed in a snowstorm in 2004.

The closure of the wooden bridge this week, barring Jews from the holiest Jewish site in the world, shocked Jews in Israel and around the world. National Union Knesset Members Aryeh Eldad and Uri Ariel said the situation as unacceptable and that they would arrive at the site Wednesday morning in order to ascend to the Temple Mount.

Israeli media reports said Israel would consult with the king of Jordan, the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, on the future of the bridge.

Lo and behold, the city of Jerusalem found a solution. A fire truck was brought to the bridge Wednesday morning so firefighters can put out a fire in case the bridge goes up in smoke.

Before the bridge was re-opened, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he intended to have engineers figure how to repair the bridge quickly to render a more permanent solution. However, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat insists that the bridge is “ugly and dangerous” and should be torn down, an action that Israel has refrained from taking for several months because of fears of upsetting the Arab world.

Jordan’s King Hussein official is the “Custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem," where Muslim lay claim to the Temple Mount. He has warned Israel not to touch the bridge.

The fire truck solution competes with the tales of Chelm, the eastern city of Poland that was made famous by Jewish writers' stories of the city’s “wise men” who came up with foolish solutions.

One story relates that a Jew from Chelm had bought a live fish for cooking for the Shabbat. Before he got home, the fish slapped him in the face with its tail, and the man took the fish to court.

The judiciary sentenced the fish to death by drowning.

Another story concerns the construction of a new synagogue in Chelm, which sent men to a mountaintop to gather heavy stones for the foundation. The men put the stones on their shoulders and trudged down the mountain to the town below.