Western Wall – Main Shrine of the Jews

Western Wall in Israel is known all over the world. Even not having the slightest relation to either Judaism or Jewry, a person knows where it is – in Jerusalem. And everyone knows that the Western Wall of the Temple Mount is the most important shrine of the Jewish people, the only thing left of the Second Temple. Western Wall is located in the Old City of Jerusalem in Jewish quarter.

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There are many shrines in the world that lie in ruins – and here there is only a fragment of the fence, not even a part of the temple itself. The Jews must be too religious and really appreciate their ancient ruins, a stranger would think. Otherwise, why is it of such incredible value to them?

This is so and not so. Jewish people are truly deeply religious people who value their historical heritage. But their attachment to this shrine is also a deeply personal feeling.

A kid who has just learned to write can get a task at school to write a note to the Lord in order to put it in the Western Wall. He already knows why this is necessary.

These kids will come here as teenagers who have just reached religious adulthood. At the Kotel, bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah are celebrated.

They will stand before it several years later, taking the oath of the Israel Defense Forces.

The Western Wall will witness the significant and joyful events in the lives of these people. But on Day 9 of Av, they will also sit on the ground near it, reading the Lamentation of Jeremiah and singing songs of sorrow that arose in the Middle Ages on the basis of this ancient text. The prophet Ermiahu witnessed the death of the First Temple. Since then, it was precisely 9 Ava that was considered and was the day of disasters.

It seems that Jewish tears shed on this day in history would have been enough to wash the Wall from top to bottom.

Rome and the Second Temple: an almost harmless prologue.

Titus Flavius Josephus told us about the history of the Western Wall. From his books we know that King Herod, expanding and strengthening the Temple, erected a support wall on the western slope of the Temple Mount. It was around 19 BC

Now we see what remains of a grandiose building. The well-known prayer place on the square is only 57 m length. The wall is19 m high. But completely its aerial part stretches almost half a kilometer. These are 45 layers of stone, 17 of which go underground, so that it is difficult to bring down the Wall. But the Wall could not defend the Second Temple. The third visit the Romans legions destroyed the Second Temple. It was painfully told by Josephus, a participant of the First Jewish War, a witness to the death of the Temple.

The scientist, warrior and patriot Josephus, devoted his life to only one task. He tried that his homeland would not suffer too much from the power of Rome.

Pompey the Great conquered Jerusalem in 63 BC. From the point of view of Joseph and any Jew, this alone was a reproach to the Temple. Not to mention the murders of priests who did not interrupt their rites.

But who would know then that it was still the most delicate that Rome is capable of.

Pompey, having found a golden table with a lamp in the Temple, and in addition to the treasury of 2000 talents (a huge amount!), Did not touch any of this. Joseph calls it piety! But it is possible that it was the usual pride for Pompey.

Rome and the Temple: a farce and the tragic end.

After Pompey appeared Mark Crassus. Crassus endured all the treasures so nobly abandoned by Pompey. A sad, but still almost anecdotal moment. Priest Eleazar wanted to preserve at least the sacred curtains of the Temple. And Crassus offered one of the treasures: a hefty stick of pure gold (it was hidden in a wooden shell, Crassus himself simply would not have found it, taking it for an ordinary pole). Eleazar expected to bargain: take it with the money, but do not touch the sacred objects!

Crassus made a promise, received money and a golden stick. And then calmly broke his oath. He pulled out of the Temple everything that seemed to him of any value.

The Roman Republic painfully punished the rebellious peoples. The empire was ready to wipe them off the face of the earth! What is the destruction of the main shrine of the people, if not an attempt to kill its essence, its soul?

The uprising, which grew into the First Jewish War against Rome and the imperial dynasty of Flavius (66-71 BC), ended in the defeat and destruction of the Second Temple in 70.

All that remained of it was only the Western Wall.

In 2011, Israeli archaeologists found imperial Roman coins under the southern fragment of the wall. The dating of which says: they were circulated after the death of King Herod.

That is, contrary to the previous opinion, Herod did not build the entire wall. He barely brought its construction to half.

Western Wall in Jerusalem

What is hidden?

After the destruction of the Second Temple, not only the Western Wall survived, but also the platform on which it stood, poured by Herod. Behind the Wall, construction began. And the antiquities of the times of Herod were hidden underground.

Excavations along the Wall began back in 1860-70. Then two arches were discovered, named after the archaeologists who discovered them. Wilson Arch and Warren Arch.

In the XX century, after the Six Day War of 1967, large-scale archaeological work was undertaken. It was necessary to dig under residential quarters, which grew up on the site of buildings of the era of the Second Temple. Excavations have been going on for almost 20 years – but the entire length of the Western Wall and all the underground tunnels have been uncovered.

Now you can see all the traces that were left on the Wall after Herod and the Arabs of Umayyad, and the Kurds of Ayyubida, and the Mamelukes of Saladin. Streets of Roman construction and the water channel of the Hasmoneans.

You can visit the tunnels and see all this with your own eyes, as well as the giant Western stone, the cave synagogue, the Strutiyon pool. Next to the tunnels is the “The Chain of Generations Center” – a museum of Jewish history with original glass sculptures.

Nails in the shrine.

In the XV-XVI centuries, believers in the Western Wall did not leave notes, but nails. And it was not the visitors who did it. Departing Jews, who were traveling to visit fellow believers scattered around the world. Before a long and dangerous way, a man stuck a nail into the gap of the Wall. As if leaving part of himself claiming that he would certainly return. This was considered a good omen. Sand and stone chips from the Wall, on the contrary could be taken.

This continued until the rabbis were annoyed by this tradition. Firstly, there was something of pagan superstition in these carnations. And secondly, even a mighty stone wall would have to be bad if hundreds and hundreds of nails are stuck into it, increasing the cracks and slowly destroying the masonry.

Nails were forbidden, but the tradition of “close communication” with the Wall did not die.

Western Wall: the mailbox of the Almighty.

A new idea – notes to God already existed by the middle of the 18th century. It is believed that it was born thanks to the great rabbi Haim bin Atar, the author of the famous book “The Light of Life”. Legend says: a beggar came to him and began to pray for help. He could not only achieve prosperity, but at least get out of poverty.

Rabbi gave him a note: “Do you know where the Western Wall is? Put it there. ” The poor man ran where he was told, but the disastrous wind tore off his hat. Is it possible for a Jew without a hat, and even more so to approach the shrine with his head uncovered? While the unlucky petitioner was catching a hat, he managed to let the paper that Ben Atar gave him to the wind. “Rabbi, what to do?” – “I don’t know, it’s obvious that your destiny is to be poor.”

The second version of the legend tells of another poor man – but he was a student of bin Atar. And he managed to put a note on purpose. Other rabbis noticed this, recognized him as a disciple of bin Atar, and began to act like his teacher.

If you decide to leave a note in the Kotel:

  • Write a note in advance and try not to be too voluminous – it will not be easy to find a place for it in the Wall, because you are not alone.
  • You can write in any language, on any paper, make any request – but still it is advisable not to ask too much. And even more so, do not wish anyone harm. You can ask for help in a difficult situation, about the health and well-being of your family and friends. Do not forget about gratitude to the One to whom you are writing.
  • Men approach the Wall on the right side, women on the left.
  • Your shoulders, elbows, legs should be covered with clothing. Women don’t need to cover their heads, men – be sure, if you are without a hat, the rangers will offer you a pile.
  • Before you approach the Wall, you should wash your hands – in the square in front of it you will have such opportunity.
  • Do not push anyone and observe silence, do not behave like uncultured people in public places – “I can only ask,” that is, “put a note”. All these people at the Wall did not stand there in order to interfere with you – they pray.
  • It is unacceptable to pull out someone else’s notes in order to attach your own.
  • You need to leave the Wall without turning your back on it, even if you do not profess Judaism – show respect for the shrine.
  • You can do without a note at all – just touch the Wall and pray near it, state everything you wanted mentally.
  • Leave a small donation if possible.

Useful information

Opening hours:

  • 24 hours every day.

How to get there on your own

  • From the central bus station in Jerusalem (“Tahana Merkazit”) – buses No. 1, 2.
  • From the intersection of King George and Jaffa, take bus number 38.

Cost is Free payment.