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The Western Wall

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See the Holiest Site in Judaism

Our Octagon Tour always get the chance to pray at the Western Wall.

Location - The Old City of Jerusalem

Map Coordinates - 31.776678, 35.234410

The wall (often called the Kotel) is an ancient limestone retaining wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is a relatively small segment of a much longer ancient retaining wall that supported the Temple Mount. The wall was originally built as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple, begun by Herod the Great. This created more space for the Temple itself, its auxiliary buildings, and crowds of worshipers and visitors.

The Western Wall's holiness in Judaism is a result of its proximity to the Temple Mount. Because of the Temple Mount’s entry restrictions, barring all Jews from entry, the Wall is the holiest place where Jews are permitted to pray, though the site of the Holy of Holies, the most sacred site in the Jewish faith, lies behind it. For all practical purposes, the wall is the most accessible sacred site recognized by Judaism outside of the Temple Mount platform itself.

Just over half the wall's total height, including its 17 courses of stones located below street level, dates from the end of the Second Temple period, and is commonly believed to have been built by Herod the Great starting in 19 BC. The very large stone blocks of the lower courses are Herodian. The courses of medium-sized stones above them were added during the Umayyad period (the first Muslim Caliphate), and the small stones of the uppermost courses are of more recent date, especially from the Ottoman period.

Isn’t This Called the Wailing Wall?

The wall has also been called the "Wailing Wall", referring to the practice of Jews weeping at the site over the destruction of the Temples. The term "Wailing Wall" is not used by religious Jews, and increasingly not by many others who consider it derogatory.

Western Wall Etiquette.

Men and women are segregated at the wall, with men praying in the northern section, and women in the southern section. Everyone must have their head covered, and photography is not permitted on the Sabbath. There is a much-publicized practice of placing slips of paper containing written prayers into the crevices of the Wall, with more than a million notes being placed each year.

The Western Wall Plaza.

The Western Wall Plaza.

The Western Wall plaza was created in 1967, and is used for worship and public gatherings, including Bar mitzvah celebrations. Tens of thousands of Jews flock to the wall on the Jewish holidays, particularly on the fast of Tisha B’Av, which marks the ancient destruction of the Temple.

The Wilson’s Arch Library.

The Wilson Arch Library.

In 2005, the government initiated a major renovation effort to restructure the area within the Wilson Arch, the covered area to the left of worshipers facing the Wall in the open prayer plaza, to increase access for visitors and prayer. The restoration of the men's section included a Torah ark, new bookshelves, a library, heating for the winter, and air conditioning for the summer. A new room was also built for the scribes who maintain and preserve the Torah scrolls that are used at the Wall. There is also a women's section, overlooking the men's prayer area, so that women could use this separate balcony to "take part in the services held inside under the Arch".

The Isaiah Stone.

At the southern end of the Western Wall, in the area of the Robinson's Arch, there is the so-called Isaiah Stone, located under the Arch. It has a carved inscription in Hebrew with a partial and slightly faulty quote from (or paraphrase of) Isaiah 66:14: "And you will see and your heart will rejoice and their bones like an herb (will flourish)." (The correct line from Isaiah would read "...your bones".) The inscription has tentatively been dated to the 4th-8th century, with some extending the possible timespan all the way to the 11th century.

The Isaiah Stone.

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