The Western Wall in Jerusalem is the most sacred site to Jewish people.
It is also known as the Wailing Wall because of the tendency of Jews to
cry next to the wall for the loss of the temple (and other more personal
reasons). In Hebrew it is known as the Kotel (which simply means "the
wall") or Kotel Hamaaravi ("the Western wall").
The Kotel is the last remaining part of the 2nd temple built by King Herod. It was built in 20 BC and took 11 years to build as part of Herod’s expansion project of the Temple Mount area. In 70 AD the Romans destroyed Jerusalem along with the Temple, and the Western Wall is the only part left standing.
The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem is quite impressive as far as construction is concerned. The lower bigger bricks are from the time of Herod and the upper smaller bricks are from a later period. The huge lower stones were perfectly cut and rest in amazing precision - one on top of (and against) the other - without the use of mortar.
Obviously along the years parts of those huge stones eroded a bit, especially around the edges. The wall is actually much bigger than you see and it is continuing for quite a few more tiers into the ground – a fact you will notice easily while visiting the Western Wall tunnel.
In front of the wall there is a wide space that is really a big open air synagogue. Many Jewish people come to the Kotel during the day or night time to pray. On Tisha Be Av (which usually falls in July or August), a fast to mourn the destruction of both temples is held. On this date you will notice many Jews come to pray at the Wailing Wall and read from the Book of Lamentations (Eicha in Hebrew). The open plaza in front of the Wall can contain thousands of people at any one time and often you will notice events such as a Bar Mitzvah taking place there.
A unique habit formed in relation to the western wall, which is to insert notes
with prayers and requests into the cracks between the huge stones. A
Jewish friend of mine, who was dating a lot but couldn’t find a girl to
marry, took the advice of his cousin and placed a note in the Kotel with
a request to find a wife. Within only 1 month he met the girl and got
married!!! He and his wife are now married for over 20 years. True
Actually I know of no tourist in Israel who didn’t go to visit the Western Wall. It is a special experience! Regardless of religion, you will be able to approach the Wall and to pray or leave a note if you wish. You do have to adhere to the rules of the place though – men and women pray in two different sections of the wall. Also men are required to wear a head covering, and women are expected to dress accordingly – a mini skirt won’t do...
So… enjoy your time while visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem!
P.S. Remember what I was saying about any person of any religion being able to pray at the wall - well check out this awesome photographic print...
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