The plan approved Monday by the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee would completely change the layout of the plaza, which was established in 1967. It was the first step in a long approvals process.
Under the plan, an underground plaza and tunnel would replace the main entrance at the Dung Gate. The plan also includes a visitors’ center and extra bathrooms, classrooms and an auditorium, as well as exhibition space for archeological artifacts found in the area.
Despite a plan for a movable mechitzah between the men’s and women’s sections, which would allow for the enlargement of the women’s section as needed, women’s groups have expressed concerns about the new configuration, believing that they are being squeezed out.
The plan also is expected to anger the Muslim community, which has protested previous work on the plaza, such as the construction of a temporary bridge to the Mugrabi Gate entrance of the Temple Mount in 2007.
Eight million people visit the Western Wall each year, according to the municipality of Jerusalem, which expects the figure to double in the next 10 years. The Western Wall Heritage Foundation puts the number of annual visitors at 15 million, The Jerusalem Post reported.