Traveling through Israel can be an overwhelming experience. The breadth of archaeology in combination with the rich cultural fabric makes every site a discovery and every story a learning experience. However, among all the iconic Israeli sites that visitors could possibly incorporate into their trip, perhaps the most iconic is the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
The Western Wall
July 19 2019
Known as the ‘Kotel’ in Hebrew, the Western Wall is a 187-foot exposed section of limestone of what was once a part of the Second Temple which, in turn, was built upon the original foundation of the Temple of Solomon. Religious sources describe the construction of the Temple of Solomon as taking place in the 10th century BCE and it was built on top of what known as the Temple Mount. After its destruction in 586 BCE, a ‘Second Temple’ was erected and completed in 516 BCE and, circa 19BCE, King Herod spearheaded an expansion project in efforts to double the Temple in size.
Today, over 2000 years later, the modern Wall is still a place of tradition and worship for the Jewish people as well as a historical and archeological gold mine for visitors from all over the world. Upon approaching the massive structure, one cannot help but notice not only devout members of faith praying- segregated by gender- but also the seemingly uncountable shreds of crumbled up white paper within the crevices of the wall. The tradition of writing prayers on small white paper and sliding it into the cracks in the wall dates back centuries and over a million notes are placed by humble visitors and religious members alike each year. In fact, even high-profile dignitaries such as Pope Francis and Barack Obama have placed notes within the wall. These notes are collected twice a year and are buried on the Mount of Olives, the biblical location of the Ascension of Jesus of Nazareth.
Further, there is more to the Western Wall than what meets the eye as there is an entire labyrinth of subterranean tunnels beneath the site. Intrepid adventurers can descend into the Western Wall tunnels and reach the segments of the Wall that are hidden from view. They are also able to touch the original stones that compose the wall and feel truly immersed in these ancient pathways. Moreover, archeologists have found exquisite artifacts such as large stone arches, water pits, Roman coins, an ancient water aqueduct that ends at the Strouthion Pool, and more.
The Western Wall is indeed a landmark site within Jerusalem’s Old City and it is absolutely worth a visit. Take in the breathtaking site of over 2,000 years of archaeology, breathe in the mixture of the amalgamation of world religions, and discover precious traditions that have made Jerusalem so very special.