Wailing Wall

Wailing Wall

Wailing Wall

Western / Wailing Wall

Old Jerusalem's Western Wall, also called the "Wailing" Wall, is the most venerated site in Judaism today. Above is the Western Wall during the Shavuot (see below).

Why is the Western Wall called the "Wailing" Wall?

In the Middle Ages, Jerusalem's European residents often heard Jewish visitors wailing at the Western Wall to lament the loss of Jerusalem. The Wailing "Wall," however, is a misnomer because it actually isn't a wall. When Herod 'the Great' - the one who slaughtered Bethlehem's baby boys after Jesus was born there (see Jesus' Birthplace) - set out to expand the Second Temple of Jerusalem, he found the Temple Mount area too small for his plans. So he enlarged it by widening the foundation with cut boulders.

The Wailing Wall is the western facade of this foundation, which is all that remained of the Temple Mount after the Roman army razed Herod's temple in 70 AD, just as Jesus had prophesied about 40 years earlier:

Wailing WallThen as He went out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, "Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!" And Jesus answered and said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down." (Mark 13:1-2)

Were they really thrown down?

Walking south along the Wailing Wall toward the Dung Gate will bring you to an excavated area (right) with the stones that were "thrown down" from the Temple Mount, just as Jesus had prophesied ~30 AD. For additional archaeological evidences, see Jesus' Tomb, Capernaum and Golgotha.

Below is the Western Wall during a quieter moment at sunrise.

Wailing Wall

The orthodox Jewish men* facing the wall, including the two on the left wearing prayer shawls, are reciting prayers while rocking back and forth. Prayers are also written on pieces of paper, which are folded and stuck in the wall's crevices.

Why do they rock back and forth while reciting prayers at the wall?

Jewish rabbis learned early on that using more muscles aids memorization.

Where are the women?

Wailing WallThey are behind the partition (right), that reserves the left (when facing the wall) 2/3 of the Western Wall plaza for men and 1/3 of the plaza for women (Draped in the Israeli flag in the background is the ramp to the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount).

The men on the right are celebrating the Shavuot, which commemorates Moses returning from Mount Sinai with the stone tablets bearing the Ten Commandments, by walking in a circle chanting, "Thank you for the Law!" in Hebrew. The Shavuot, also called the Feast of Weeks, takes place fifty days after the Passover and coincides with the Pentecost.

* Orthodox Jewish men, typically dressed in black, keep to themselves and avoid contact with non-Jews. If you are a man, refrain from offering a handshake to greet Orthodox Jewish women; the only men they are allowed to touch are their husbands.

Travel Tip
The Western Wall plaza is open 24 hours, 7 days a week, and reaching it requires passing through one of three security checkpoints. To get close to the wall, dress modestly and pick up a head covering from the bin in the entry area. Men can approach the wall only from the left side of the plaza as you face the wall, and the women, only from the right.