Wailing Wall, also known as the Kotel, is located in the Old Quarter of East Jerusalem in Israel. The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and is the place to which Jews turn during prayer. Parts of the wall are remnants of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple’s courtyard, and is arguably the most sacred site recognized by the Jewish faith outside of the Temple Mount itself.
Just over half the wall, including its 17 courses located below street level, dates from the end of the Second Temple period, commonly believed to have been constructed around 19 BCE by Herod the Great, but recent excavations indicate that the works were not finished during Herod’s lifetime.
The wall is believed by devout Jews to be the Western Wall of the Second Temple. The temple’s original location is in dispute, leading some Arabs to dispute the claim that the wall belongs to the temple arguing; instead, that it is part of the structure of Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount.
After the war of 1948 and the Arab capture of the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, Jews were generally banned from praying at the Wailing Wall, which was at times defaced by political posters. Jewish tradition teaches that all of creation began in Jerusalem.
The epicenter is Mount Moriah, known by mystics as “the watering stone.” The name “Moriah” is actually a play on words: “Moriah is the place from which Torah instruction (horah) goes forth; from where fear of heaven (yirah) goes forth; from where light (orah) goes forth.”
The service in the Holy Temple during the week of Sukkot featured a total of 70 bull offerings, corresponding to each of the 70 nations of the world. In fact, the Talmud says that if the Romans (who destroyed the Temple) would have realized how much benefit they received from the Temple, they never would have destroyed it.
The Western Wall is no mere historical asset. It is the Jewish root – the deepest roots that any people have. Elsewhere, we grope for insight. At the Western Wall, as we water the Wall with our tears and melted the stones with our kisses, we achieve clarity and define who we are, as God’s eternal nation.
In 1967, after the 6 day war, the prayers and tears of 2,000 years were answered: the holy site returned back again to Jewish control, and was opened to the public. The area before the western wall was razed down to allow the multitude of worshippers to assemble in the site.
In addition to the daily and Sabbath prayer services, special events like Bar and Bat Mitzvah are also celebrated at the Western Wall. On Tisha B’Av, which falls in July or August, a fast is held commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temple, and worshipers sit on the ground reciting the Book of Lamentations and liturgical dirges.
Visitors of all religions are welcome to approach the Wall and to pray silently beside it. Men who would like to go to the wall must wear a hat or take a free head covering from a box beside the entrance to the prayer area.