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Western Wall (Kotel)

The Western Wall or the Kotel HaMaaravi or simply the “Kotel” is part of the holiest site in the world the Jewish people and is located in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Hundreds of thousands of people visit it the Western Wall to each year to pray.

A popular tradition is to place a note with your harts desire in the wall between the stones.

The Western Wall was the western retaining wall of the Temple Mount built during Herod expanded and beautification of the Jewish Temple.

In and of itself, the Western Wall is not holy because it was not, as most people believe, one of the walls of the Temple.

The reason people pray at the Western Wall is because it is the closest they can pray the actual holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount.

After the Romans destroyed the temple in the year 70 CE, Jew’s were forbidden from praying on the Temple Mount.

So they prayed at different sections of the retaining walls instead.

First, people prayed at the southern wall at the original entrance leading to the had been.

Later, they prayed by the Gate of Mercy, otherwise known as the Golden Gate, by the eastern wall.

It has only been for the past number of centuries that Jews have been praying by this relitively small section Western Wall.

Today, Jewish don’t pray at the Temple Mount because we are still forbidin.

This is due to the fact that police prevent non-Muslims from praying on the Temple Mount for fear of back lash as there has been in the past.

So, what makes the Western Wall in and of itself holy is that it the fact that it has become a place prayer.

The section prayed at is actually a relatively small segment of the 488-metre-long (1,601 ft) ancient wall.

Another even smaller section can be found in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City called the “Little Western Wall” or “Kotel HaKatan.”

Israeli archaeologists dug below the ground of the wall, exposing two more levels. This is now part of the Western Wall Tunnels and there is a Synagogue by the wall there too.

The Western Wall Plaza is divided into two sections for prayer. One area is reserved for men and the other for women.

Women and men should dress modestly out of respect in the Western Wall Plaza.

To pray at the wall, women should have their legs and shoulders covered.

The Wall is free and is open all day, year-round, to all visitors. It also often hosts military inductions and bar mitzvahs.

Also, on Shabbos, which begins Friday evening and ends Saturday night, photography and filming is prohibited.

Wilson’s Arch Synagogue

Wilson’s Arch is the modern name for an ancient stone arch on the left of the men’s prayer section of the Western Wall.

The Arch is visible underneath later buildings set against the Wall leads to a hall that is used as a synagogue. The synagogue, like the Wall, has both men and women’s sections.

It is the first in a row of arches that once supported a bridge that held both a street and an aqueduct.

The bridge was used by both Jewish priests and pilgrims coming to the Temple Mount from the Upper City (which today can be seen in The Herodian Quarter).

The Upper City extended over the Jewish Quarter and the Armenian Quarter of the Old City and Mount Zion, also known as the “Western Hill.” 

The Bridge specifically spanned from one of the four entrance gates to the Temple Mount to Mount Zion.

Wilson’s Arch is named after British engineer and archaeologist Charles Wilson who mapped the city of Jerusalem.

Placing Notes in The Wall

Notes put into cracks in the Western Wall

There is a long held tradition to place notes in the wall in addition to praying.

On these notes you can ask for anything you want. It is not uncommon for people to ask for good health for themselves and loved ones for example.

What Happens to the Papers Place in The Wall?

The papers are removed from between the stones and fill dozens of bags. Then, the notes are brought up to the Mount of Olives and buried overlooking the Wailing Wall.

About the Western Wall

Solomon’s Temple was built in the 10th centenary BEC atop what is today known as the Temple Mount – hence the name – also known as Har HaBáyit.

However, the temple was was destroyed about 400 years later by the Babylonians.

When the Persians conquered the Babylonians and gain control of their territories, the allowed the Jews to rebuild the Temple.

The Second Temple completed and dedicated 70 years after The First Temples destruction but it was much more modest.

Then, 500 years later, King Herod, began a massive expansion and beautification project on the Jewish Temple.

In order to expand the the area he had to build a platform around the peak of the mountain.

To do this Herod build four retaining perimeter wall and filled them in with dirt.

However, the Romans razed the Temple in 70 CE and for centuries Jews were not allowed to pray at the Temple Mount where it had stood.

First, become the Romans built a pagan city on Jerusalem which Jews were not allowed in on penalty of death after the Bar Kokhba Revolt.

This law held for 400 years including after Rome became the Byzantine Empire.

Second, once the Muslims conquered the Byzantines, Jews were allowed into Jerusalem but not to pray at the Temple Mount, which is where they say Mohammad rose to heaven.

So, instead Jews prayed Western Wall’s proximity to where the Temple was located on the Temple Mount.

Still today, only Muslims are allowed by law to pray on the Temple Mount.

This is due to fear of back lash from worshipers visiting the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock which were built where the Jewish Temple stood.

Therefore, the Western Wall is the closest Jews (and other non-Muslims) are permitted to pray to the most sacred site in the Jewish faith.

Why does the Western Wall have three names?

The Western Wall is called so because it is the western retaining wall of that surrounded the Jewish Temple on Temple Mount.

The Kotel HaMaaravi is the Hebrew name for the wall which translates as “Western Wall.” It is also called the Kotel for short or Kosel if said with an Ashkenazi accent.

For many years it was known as as the Wailing Wall, which was first used by Muslims who witnessed Jews mourning the destruction of the Temple and the loss of national freedom it symbolized.

This phrase was later adopted by Christian Europeans who translated it into their own languages.

How to Get To the Western Wall

You can take the Jerusalem light rail, use the Carta Parking, or walk to Jaffa Gate. Then walk through the Muslim shuk or through the Armenian quarter to the Jewish Quarter. From there you walk to the Western Wall Plaza.

OR

You can take a bus (1,3, or 38), a cab, or the free shuttle from the First Station (which provides parking) to Dung Gate which leads directly to the the Western Wall Plaza.

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