Whenever Eileen and I visit the Old City in Jerusalem, which is quite often, one place that we must always visit is the Western Wall, the Kotel, which is the most significant site in the world for the Jewish people. We know that it is the last remnant of our Temple. People from around the world, of all faiths, come here to pray. It was formerly called the “Wailing Wall” by European observers because for centuries, Jews came here to mourn the loss of their temple.
Why is the Kotel so important to the Jewish people? The Wall was built by King Herod just before the time of Jesus and is part of a structure that retains the western part of Temple Mount, where the Dome of the Rock now stands, and the ceremonial plaza Herod created on the Temple Mount itself. Walls surrounded the western, southern, and eastern sides of the Temple Mount. The western wall is the only one to survive the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 586 BC.
On our last visit to the wall I decided to video the area and share my experience. I say “my experience” because Eileen is not allowed to go to the area of the wall where the men pray. A separate area for women is available for them to pray.
When you enter the Kotel through one of several security checkpoints, you arrive at the main plaza which is located in a former Arab neighborhood that was next to the wall. The neighborhood was razed after the ‘6 Day War’ in 1967 and the current plaza was built in its place. The plaza is used by both men and women and groups gather here before and after heading to the wall. It also is the largest outdoor synagogue in the world.
Men who would like to go to the Wall must wear a hat or take a head covering, at no cost, from a box beside the entrance to the prayer area. Men are also asked if they would like to put on Tefillin. You know what that is right?
At the prayer section of the Western Wall, grass grows out of the upper cracks. The lower cracks have been stuffed with bits of paper containing prayers.
Orthodox Jews can be seen standing at the wall, chanting and swaying.
On some days Bar and Bat Mitzvahs are held at the Wall. Even when these aren’t being held, families come to pray at the wall together.
Members of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are often found praying at the wall. On previous visits we were able to observe the swearing-in ceremonies of new IDF members in the plaza. All Israelis, men and women, must serve in the IDF, usually at the age of 18-19. Orthodox Jews who cannot serve must do “National Service” instead, working in hospitals, schools, etc..
To the left of the wall is the entrance to the inside prayer area. The wall continues into the area for the men to pray and study.
I hope that this gives you an understanding of what you will see in the video…Sholom!