Monday, September 24, 2012

The Western Wall - Above and Below

The Western Wall (or Wailing Wall) is the most sacred place in Judaism.  It is all that remains of the ancient retaining wall at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount.  Part of the wall is open to a big plaza, but most of the wall remains buried under street level or hidden behind the buildings of the Old City.

Men and women come to separate areas to pray and leave written notes at the wall.  It was fun to be there on a Thursday to see lots of singing and candy-throwing for Bar mitzvah celebrations at the wall.  The men's side (on the left) is noticeably larger and less crowded than the women's side as you can see in this picture.

The Wailing Wall

The hidden parts of the Western Wall have now been excavated and are open to the public.  We were lucky to get tickets to go underground into the tunnels along the whole length of the wall.  Some of the stones that make up the wall are as big as a school bus!  The excavations were very controversial, but the archeologists really did a great job opening up so much history to the public.

Because it is closest to the "Holy of Holies" (where the Ark of the Covenant was believed to have been kept before it was lost), the part of the Western Wall towards the middle is considered the holiest.  Above ground this is the men's area.  Since the underground parts of the wall have opened you can find many women going underground to pray closer to the "Holy of Holies." 

Women praying in the Western Wall Tunnel

Both above and below ground it was easy to feel and understand the spiritual significance of the area.

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