THE WAILING WALL
Pilgrims who stand at the Wailing Wall, looking up at the huge ancient stones – the last remnant of the Temple in Jerusalem – are almost always surrounded by people: some have come to celebrate a Bar Mitzvah, others to take pictures before a wedding, or to place a heartfelt prayer-note within the cracks between the stones. But they sense the presence not only of the here-and-now, but also of the untold numbers of people who for centuries streamed to this, the most sacred place in the world to the Jewish people.
Today, visits of Jewish pilgrims to the Wailing Wall are usually associated with either praying, making vows (nedarim), asking for requests, or putting notes (supplications) between the stones of the Wall to enhance the chances of the wishes materializing.
Devotions at the Wailing Wall are normally conducted in a stylized format. Men and women are separated by a partition and are modestly dressed; the men all have covered heads.
The Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem
The Western Wall was part of the most magnificent building Jerusalem had ever seen. It was one of four walls Herod the Great built to support the plaza on which the Temple stood. It was almost 500 m long – the rest can still be seen inside the Western Wall Tunnel.
Originally it was some 30 m high and reached some 30 m into the ground.
It is, however, not because of its grand architecture that the Western Wall became an inseparable part of the Jewish People. Solomon, who built the First Temple, said it best with these words: “May Your eyes be open day and night toward this House, toward the place of which You have said, ‘My name shall abide there;' may You heed the prayers which Your servant will offer toward this place. And when You hear the supplications which Your servant and Your people Israel offer toward this place, give heed in Your heavenly abode...” (1 Kings 8:17).
It was Abraham who first linked the Jewish people to Jerusalem , when he offered Isaac in sacrifice on Mount Moriah, the Temple Mount, now above and behind the Wall.
The rock of the offering, over which the Dome of the Rock was built in the late seventh century, is known in Jewish tradition as the Foundation Stone of the world.
King David purchased this land; Solomon's First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE; Herod expanded the Second Temple, which was burned by the Romans in 70 CE, except legend says, for the Western Wall. It was then that Talmudic sages began to teach: "This is the Western Wall of the Temple, which is never destroyed for the shekhinah [the Divine presence] is in the west" (Bamidbar Rabah 11:63).
Jews pray at the Wailing Wall during Sukkot
The Wall is known as the Wailing Wall as Jews here laments the Temple's destruction. A legend says that on Tisha B’Av, the anniversary of the Temple 's destruction, the dew glistening on the stones is the Wall itself shedding tears.
From 1948 until 1967 Jews were separated from the Wall. But then, in the Six Day War, on June 7, 1967, Jerusalem was reunited. Now the Western Wall is not only a symbol of glories past and a place to leave a bit of oneself in the form of notes bearing prayers and blessings, but of the love and devotion of the Jewish People for their Holy City now and forever.
Although the Wailing Wall is well known few pilgrims to Jerusalem are aware of the Little Wailing Wall (HaKotel HaQatan). Its appearance is very much like that of the Wall before the Western Wall Esplanade was built in 1967. It is a short part of the Western (supporting) Wall and is situated on the left at the end of Bab al-Hadis Street. Some Jewish pilgrims prefer praying here as it is a more quiet spot and closer to the spot where the Holy of Holies of the Temple was situated.
More about the Temple Mount and the Wailing Wall Tunnels.