The Western Wall or Wailing Wall is an ancient limestone wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. The wall was originally erected as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple begun by Herod the Great, which resulted in the encasement of the natural, steep hill known to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount, in a large rectangular structure topped by a huge flat platform, thus creating more space for the Temple itself and its auxiliary buildings.

The Western Wall is considered holy due to its connection to the Temple Mount. Because of the Temple Mount entry restrictions, the Wall is the holiest place where Jews are permitted to pray, though it is not the holiest site in the Jewish faith, which lies behind it. The original, natural and irregular-shaped Temple Mount was gradually extended to allow for an ever-larger Temple compound to be built at its top. This process was finalised by Herod, who enclosed the Mount with an almost rectangular set of retaining walls, built to support extensive substructures and earth fills needed to give the natural hill a geometrically regular shape. Of the four retaining walls, the western one is considered to be closest to the former Temple, which makes it the most sacred site recognised by Judaism outside the former Temple Mount esplanade.

Just over half the wall's total height, including its 17 courses located below street level, dates from the end of the Second Temple period, and is commonly believed to have been built around 19 BCE by Herod the Great, although recent excavations indicate that the work was not finished by the time Herod died in 4 BCE. The very large stone blocks of the lower courses are Herodian, the courses of medium-sized stones above them were added during the Umayyad era, while the small stones of the uppermost courses are of more recent date, especially from the Ottoman period.

The term Western Wall and its variations are mostly used in a narrow sense for the section traditionally used by Jews for prayer, and it has also been called the 'Wailing Wall', referring to the practice of Jews weeping at the site over the destruction of the Temples. During the period of Christian Roman rule over Jerusalem (ca. 324–638), Jews were completely barred from Jerusalem except to attend Tisha be-Av, the day of national mourning for the Temples, and on this day the Jews would weep at their holy places. The term 'Wailing Wall' was thus almost exclusively used by Christians, and was revived in the period of non-Jewish control between the establishment of British Rule in 1920 and the Six-Day War in 1967.

The earliest source mentioning this specific site as a place of worship is from the 16th century. The previous sites used by Jews for mourning the destruction of the Temple, during periods when access to the city was prohibited to them, lay to the east, on the Mount of Olives and in the Kidron Valley below it. With the rise of the Zionist movement in the early 20th century, the wall became a source of friction between the Jewish and Muslim communities, the latter being worried that the wall could be used to further Jewish claims to the Temple Mount and thus Jerusalem.

During this period outbreaks of violence at the foot of the wall became commonplace, with a particularly deadly riot in 1929 in which 133 Jews were killed and 339 injured. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War the Eastern portion of Jerusalem was occupied by Jordan. Under Jordanian control Jews were completely expelled from the Old City including the Jewish quarter, and Jews were barred from entering the Old City for 19 years, effectively banning Jewish prayer at the site of the Western Wall. This period ended on June 10, 1967, when Israel gained control of the site following the Six-Day War. Three days after establishing control over the Western Wall site the Moroccan Quarter was bulldozed by Israeli authorities to create space for what is now the Western Wall plaza.

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Founded: 19 BCE
Category: Religious sites in Israel

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User Reviews

Cat Zionist (17 months ago)
I'm orthodox christian but was here. Amusing that the desire I made then at the age of 7 to "go to a music school" came true: D Great place! The Lord-God is one!
Cephas Addo (2 years ago)
Historic site that gives you a solemn mood, aside admiring the magnificence of the wall. Beautiful scenes to make you enjoy your way around.
Mattias Miedzinski (2 years ago)
Nice historic building. Quite easy to get to and have not been such long queues both times I have been here
Aussie Tim (2 years ago)
We wait patiently for the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple on this 'Mountain of The Lord', then soon after the whole world will witness Jesus and His angels returning to the Mount of Olives. Come Jesus come...!!
Nathan Cooper (2 years ago)
there's a very special energy about this place. spiritual and mystical. love it every time i go. you're walking in history and touching stones that are over two thousand years old
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