The Western Wall, or “Kotel” in Hebrew, is the one of four retaining walls surrounding the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It served as the western supporting outer wall during the times of the Second Temple. Surviving over 2000 years of history, it is the largest intact structure since the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple in 70 AD.
Its proximity to where the ‘Holy of Holies’ lay in the Temple, bestowed the Wall with sacred status in Jewish tradition. It serves at the same time as a symbol of Jewish exile, which is why it is also known as “The Wailing Wall”, and a symbol of historic Jewish glory and hope of redemption. Therefore, it has become a religious and national symbol in Israel and many national, religious and even military ceremonies are held at the Western Wall to this day. Due to its significance in Judaism today, it has become customary to place a small note with a wish or prayer within the cracks of the ancient wall.
Through the course of time, the Western Wall passed through the hands of different rulers and periods including: Turkish-Ottoman period, the British mandate and the nineteen years from 1948 to 1967 when it was under Jordanian rule and Jews were forbidden to enter. The Western Wall returned to Jewish hands after the Six Day War, in July 7,1967 when the Israeli paratroopers, followed by Mota Gur entered this sacred place and cried: ‘’The Temple Mount is in our hands!’’. The photo of the three Israeli paratroopers, standing beside the Western Wall shedding their tears became a symbol of the entire Israeli nation. It is believed that from here the divine presence has never departed.
The stones of the Western Wall are designed in a typical Herodian style: they support one another without cement and are kept in place by sheer weight. The total height of the Wall from its foundation is estimated at 105 feet. The Wall consists of 45 stone courses, 28 of them above ground and 17 underground.
The Western Wall Plaza accommodates thousands of visitors and worshipers everyday. On special occasions and Jewish holidays it can house over 50,000 worshipers at once. It is quite overwhelming to witness thousands of Jews that gather here together to pray and make their secret wishes.
Visiting the Western Wall requires modest dressing for men and women and the plaza is divided into two sections: men and women, as to reduce the occurrence of improper thoughts during the prayer. The Western Wall is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The Western Wall is never deserted and you can always see Jews praying by its side.