Monday, January 17, 2011

The Wailing Wall / The Western Wall

We went to the Wailing Wall on our 2nd or 3rd day in Jerusalem.  The Wailing Wall is part of the Old City of Jerusalem.  One can enter the Wailing Wall from the interior of the Old City (as seen from the photo below) or from the Dung Gate, one of the 11 gates into the Old City.  Whichever entrance one enters from, it is required to go through a metal detector.  The Wailing Wall is apparently open at all days, day and night.  There are webcams along the wall so if you would like to see live shots of the Wailing Wall, you can try clicking on this weblink:  (Some computers may not have the right programs to see this webcam though.)

The Wailing Wall is also called the Western Wall but the two are actually not completely the same.  The Wailing Wall is what you see in the photos below, about 58 meters of wall.  The Western Wall includes the Wailing Wall, but also extends much further to include the entire Western Wall (about 485 meters) which is the last remnants of Herod's great temple, one of the holiest sites for Jews.  The Western Wall was built in 32 B.C.  Herod's temple, also called the Temple Mount, is in the area that is also one of the holiest for Muslims since it is the site of the Dome of the Rock (see later blog entry on this.)    
There are two separate entries into the area of the Wailing Wall:  one for men where all males are asked to wear a yamaka, with a large clear plastic container where people can borrow a yamaka then drop it back in the box when leaving.

I was redirected to a different entry about 25 meters down the wall which was just for women.  

Jeff took these photos of Cameron.  In the photo below, you can see how the cracks in the wall are crammed with folded up papers.  These are prayers that people write on paper then put in the holy wall.  You can click on the photo to see details larger.

When I was researching the Western Wall online, I found one website that offered people the opportunity to write a note that this Jewish organization would then print out and put in between the crack of the wall.  Here's the link if you want to read about this:

Jeff said in the next photo, Cameron was holding his hand up because the sun was very bright and in his eyes.

Below is the boardwalk that leads to the Rock of the Dome, the former Temple Mount site.  From the walkway, one can see the wailing wall below.  The two photos below this one were taking from the walkway.    

Despite the name 'Wailing Wall', I didn't see anyone crying at the wall.  It is mainly for prayer (with floods of  tourists coming to visit as well).  The name Wailing Wall apparantly comes from how the Jews had mourned the destruction of the Temple.  After the Temple was destroyed, the Roman authorities barred Jews from entering the Old City of Jerusalem.  At that time, the mourning site for Jews was Mount of Olives (see later blog entry) which overlooked the entire Old City of Jerusalem, including the site of the Temple Mount.  One religious writing from the Fourth Century described seeing jews wailing and lamenting there as they mourned the loss of the Temple.  The first reference to the use of the Western Wall for mourning by Jews was in the 16th Century.  

One source I read said Jewish publications written after the 6 day war of 1967 all refer to the Wailing Wall as the Western Wall.  

Another interesting aspect of this site is that there are extensive tunnels that have been excavated for the past 20 years and are open to visitors.  The purpose of the excavation was to expose the entire length of the Western Wall.  We didn't go into the tunnels, but if you would like to read more about them, here is a link that explains more.  Here's a photo from that website:

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