- Location: Jerusalem, Israel
- Builder King Herod
- Year of construction: 20 BC
- Time to Visit: All round the year, except from 29th December to 31st December
- How to Reach: Take left from souk or the Arab market in the city. There are not too many signs to lead you to the landmark, but the local inhabitants are more than ready to help.
- Nearest Railway Station: Jerusalem Malha railway station
- Nearest International Airport: Ben Gurion International Airport
Walking through Jerusalem is like taking a walk through twilight pages of history. The narrow and winding streets, the encircling wall with gates built at right angles to prevent enemy horsemen from entering the city, the different Jewish, Christian and Arab quarters with their distinctive architectures, transport you thousands of years back to the times of King Solomon and King Herod, when this was the spiritual and political nerve-center of Central Asia and the world.
The Western Wall is the most sacred site for Jews around the world. It was part of the Second Temple which was expanded by King Herod. The Wall is also known as Ha-Kotel Ha-Ma’aravi in Hebrew and al-Buraq Wall in Arabic. It is situated in the old part of the city of Jerusalem. It is also popularly referred to as the Wailing Wall because for centuries Jews have been lamenting here for the destruction of their Temple. The large open area facing the Western Wall is the Western Wall Plaza. It acts as an open-air synagogue and can accommodate thousands of worshipers.
King Herod built the Western Wall in 20 BC while expanding the Second Temple. The Wall is part of one of the four walls which enclosed the 1,555,000-square-foot plaza on which the Temple stood. The Wall had a length of almost 1,500 feet; the rest of it can be seen inside the Western Wall Tunnel. It had a height of 90 feet and reached 60 feet into the ground.
The construction of the Wall took 11 years according to the Roman-Jewish historian Josephus. The Romans destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem in 70 AD. For centuries, the Western Wall was situated in a 12 feet wide narrow alley. But after the Six Day War in 1967, Israel demolished the neighboring Arab district to create the Western Wall Plaza.
Around same time, Israel also dug down along the Wall and exposed two more tiers of ashlars or squared stones which made it 6 and half feet higher. These tiers were from the retaining wall of the Temple Plaza which was buried for centuries under accumulated debris.
What to see
The lower ashlars of the Wall — These ashlars or stones are from Herod’s time. These stones have been carved with excellent precision and rest on top of one another without mortar.
The prayer section of the Western Wall — The lower cracks of the Wall have been filled with paper bits containing written prayers. You can see Orthodox Jews standing and chanting here.
Barclay’s Gate — This is a part of the old gate during Herod’s time to the Temple Mount. It was first identified by the 19th-century American consul and named after him. The gate is on the right hand corner of the women’s prayer area.
Robinson’s Arch — This is the remains of the great stairway set on arches passing over the market at the foot of the Western Wall. It led directly into the Great Stoa on the Temple Mount’s southern side.
Western Wall Tunnel — Here you can see the original construction and continuation of the Wall. It has passages, vaults, and chambers. The arches in artificial cavern dates ranges from Herod’s time (37 BC -70 AD) to Crusader (1100-1244).