Western Wall Admission: Free to all visitors
Location: Western Wall Plaza, Old City, Jerusalem
Open Hours: Western Wall Plaza open at all hours of the day or night; Western Wall Tunnel 9:30am-5pm Sun-Fri; closed Jewish holidays.
Tel. Number: 02 627 3515 (Western Wall Tunnel)
Notes: A security check might be in order. Please be prepared for frisking or checking of bags.
Observe a manner of respect and reverence for this holy site.
Dress properly. Avoid revealing clothes which go against Jewish protocol.
No pictures may be taken on the Jewish Sabbath.
‘If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.’ Psalm 137:5-6
The Western Wall, otherwise referred to as the ‘Wailing Wall’ is a very important Jewish religious site which is a remnant of the enclosure of the Second Temple of Jerusalem built during the time of Herod the Great. It is located in the Old City of Jerusalem. Jews have gathered here for centuries to lament the destruction of their temple.
The large open are facing the Western Wall is called the Western Wall Plaza. It serves as an open-air synagogue which accommodates a multitude of worshippers at any hour of the day or night. It is here that Jews seek guidance and heavenly solace for their problems.
Men and women are segregated in the Western Wall Plaza, so you should be aware of where you’re going. They generally have signs which direct you which way to go. There is a dividing screen in the extreme right of the Western Wall, which is the women’s section. The segregation is in accordance to Orthodox Jewish tradition. The men and women worship in separate places, and they enter and exit the Western Wall Plaza through different entrances.
When approaching the Western Wall, one should generally wear a hat or a veil. If you have none, they offer free ones at the entrance. If you’re wearing short skirts, they also offer a length of cloth to wrap around your person to ‘lengthen’ your dress. A visitor should be aware that the Western Wall is a very sacred place, and one should exercise proper decorum while there.
The History of the Western Wall
The Western Wall, known in Hebrew as Ha-Kotel Ha-Ma’arvavi and Ha’it Al-Buraq in Arabic is the name for the large enclosure built by King Herod the Great at around 19 BCE. It was created during the expansion of the Second Temple’s enclosure, and is part of a wall that surrounded the western part of the Temple Mount.
A Jewish rebellion occurred in 66 CE which prompted the Roman Empire to besiege Jerusalem four years later. In 70 CE the Roman legions under the command of Titus reconquered Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. The only remnant left was the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. This became the focal point of worship for Jewish people throughout the centuries. It is generally believed that the Divine Presence dwells on the Western Wall after the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem.
In 70 A.D. the Jews were once again exiled after the destruction of their temple. For the next 1,900 years the Jews would have no right or power over the land of their fathers. However, this was not a thorough exile, for some Jews have always been, and still are, living in Jerusalem. They feel very strongly though, that they have been cast out from the land of their ancestors, and the ruins of the the Second Temple stand as a constant reminded for all of their sins against God.
The Significance of the Western Wall Today
The Western Wall continues to be a site of great pilgrimage to Jews. It is here that they pray at any time of the day or night, often reciting the entire book of the Psalms, or touching their head to the stones of the Wall. Prayers written on small pieces of paper called Tzetel are placed into the cracks of the Wall. There is no strict rule to the kind of requests you can place on a Tzetel. Many have said that to place one’s prayers in the cracks of the Western Wall was to give it high priority.
The eternal presence of the Most High in the very stones of the Wall was thought to speed up the fulfillment of the prayers. And many people attest that numerous prayers have been fulfilled after being placed in the Western Wall. It is not only Jews who place Tzetels on the Wall, but different people from all religions and races. It may be a prayer for a good journey, a prayer for a speedy recovery after an illness, or a prayer to find that special someone. They hold firm in the belief that God will hear their pleas when they pray before the wall.
Significance of the Western Wall in Other Religions
Judaism is not the only religion who venerates the Western Wall. Islam also holds the Western Wall in high regard, due to their belief that the Prophet Muhammad was carried by his mythical horse Al-Buraq from Mecca to the Western Wall of Jerusalem in the first part of his Isra and Mi’raj or ‘Night Journey’. Like the Jews, the Muslims also view the Western Wall as a place where the Holy Presence resides.
Western Wall In Christianity
The Western Wall generally has no high value for Christianity aside from the fact that it is located at the site of Jesus’s place of birth and ministry. Christianity has strong roots to it’s Judaic origins, often venerating the place of Jesus’s birth as well as the places he venerated in his time on earth. Although there is no Christian doctrine to suggest that the Western Wall is something ‘sacred’ for Christianity, many Christians still visit the Wall and pray there.
In general, the Western Wall is not simply a site of ruins meant to remind people of a turbulent time in history. It is a reminder not only of the pain and sorrow that people have and still endure because of the persecution of their beliefs. It stands as a monument to the endurance of a people and their tenacity to hold on to their Faith. It is here that three seemingly separate faiths come together to worship, weep, and ask for guidance. In these ruins a divided people stand united in one respect: prayer.