A short account of the Western Wall, given by your Israel & Jerusalem private tour guide

The Temple Mount is a huge plaza containing four immense retaining walls. The lower parts of the walls which are visible, are from the Second Temple period, while the upper parts are from later periods. Fifty-eight meters (190 ft) out of the entire 485 meters (1590 ft.) long western wall of the complex serves as the prayer plaza for the Jewish people.

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Some background

In 22 BCE, King Herod the Great built four huge retaining walls around the hill of the Temple Mount. A floor measuring 144,000 sqm (1.55 million sqf.) was built on top of this huge rectangle, suspended by an endless series of huge arches. A magnificently large temple was built at the plaza’s center. At the south end of the complex, there was a royal portico for business purposes and a fortress for security needs was built at the north end.

This impressive complex survived only 80 years. In 70 CE, after a long revolt against the Roman rulers and the capture of Jerusalem, all of the buildings on top were destroyed, along with parts of the floor and the retaining walls.

So why is it holy?

During the next centuries, Jews were not allowed into the city. When they were allowed to enter again, the site had been declared as a holy Muslim site. It was only from the late Middle Ages, when the Jewish Quarter settled in its current location, that Jews were allowed to pray near this piece of the original retaining western wall. It was the closest spot to the original Temple's location that they could access. Because the Jews prayed next to it for so many centuries, holiness was ascribed to the wall.

What happens at the Western Wall plaza?

The plaza is open for prayers every hour of the day, every day. People come from all over to pray and ask whatever they wish to ask from God. During the Jewish High Holy Days, the  the plaza is very crowded. Every Friday evening, thousands of people arrive to have Kabbalat Shabbat – reception of the Sabbath – in a very joyful way.

People also come to celebrate events. The most popular are the bar mitzvah celebrations. Boys, when they reach 13 years of age, come with their families to have their first public readings from the Torah. On Mondays and Thursdays, when the Torah is read, the plaza is filled with families who are celebrating this milestone event.

Another popular event involves the military. Some of the army brigades take the oath of loyalty at the Wall in a military ceremony.

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