Western Wall, Jerusalem
About The Western Wall
In Jerusalem, the Western Wall sits within the Old City. A temple was built at the top of the hill, known now as the Temple Mount or Mount Moriah, which was first guarded by the wall itself. The wall was first built thousands of years ago under the reign of Herod the Great. As part of the Jewish Second Temple’s expansion, the wall was erected between 516BC and 70AD. As many centuries pass, the wall has stood the test of time and only a small part of it stands today, known by the names of the Western Wall, the Wailing Wall or traditionally ‘The Kotel’.
The Western Wall – Through the Rise and Falls
Through the years the temple and the wall has been a part of many different historical and biblical events such as the story that talks of Adam’s creation, which occurred on the mount. Tales and historical markers of the Temple Mount date back over 2,500 years.
The first temple to be built on the mount was back in 957BC by Solomon. This was named as the Solomon’s Temple, also referred to as the First Holy Temple. It is said that Solomon’s Temple once housed the Ark of the Covenant, providing a home to the Ten Commandments.
Solomon’s temple sat comfortably and hosted various religious activities such as ritual cleanings and ritual sacrifice before it was destroyed by the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar in 586BC, around 371 years after its creation. This followed Zekediah, appointed the vassal King of Judah, revolted against Babylon which enraged the Babylonian King, who sought revenge. The temple didn’t sit in ruins for long however, as the Second Holy Temple was erected in 516BC following the Jewish return to the city.
The Jewish community finished the rebuilding of the temple, now known as the Second Holy Temple, in 516BC. To pay tribute to Solomon’s Temple, the Jews built the new temple on the same site as the original. This temple sat on the Temple Mount until 70AD, where the Roman’s destroyed the temple and the surrounding structures. This was the last of the temple, where it lays in ruins for the foreseeable future. Jewish eschatology talks about a third temple, but this has not yet come to be.
Multiple new structures have been built on top of the ruins, mainly around The Kotel, as this is the last standing section of the temple today to help immortalize the remaining structure. People from all around the world, not just exclusively to the Jewish community travel to visit The Kotel. This is an especially special place for the Jewish, as many believe it binds them to the Temple Mount through the still standing part of the structure. Due to the torment the temple has suffered, many have wept for the wall over the years. Due to the traumas and unfortunate events, the wall that still stands has been named as the Wailing Wall.
For centuries, until the end of the British Mandate in 1948, Jews were not allowed to pray at the Western Wall. No Jews were allowed into the Jordanian-controlled Old City between 1948 – 1967, thus meaning that no Jews visited the Western Wall for 19 years. It wasn’t until the following of the Six-Day War that Jerusalem was unified and the Jews had unrestricted access to the Kotel again.
The Western Wall – What is it Like Now?
The Western Wall stands strong in Jerusalem and invites people from all around the world, from all ethnicities. Modern day expansions have taken place and various tours are on offer, allowing people to visit the Western Wall and the tunnels below.
Traditionally, visitors who come to the Western Wall come and post a small note, containing a prayer, in between the ancient stones. This tradition dates back to the 18th century, where many people have come and placed their prayers within the wall, believing it has holy links, delivering their prayer to God. As the Western Wall is the most important place in the world within the Jewish community, there are often a lot of Bar Mitzvah’s that happen here. Common nights that these happen are on Monday’s and Thursday’s, where young Jewish males will travel with their family to the Kotel to attend the ceremony. This important milestone in the young boy’s life is immortalized as a day to remember for them, symbolizing their acceptance to the religion.