The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem -
- history, description and notes with wishes
The Wailing Wall is one of the most famous sights of Jerusalem. This is the main sacred place of Judaism, but everyone is admitted here, regardless of religious affiliation. Tourists are interested to see the traditions and prayers of the Jews, to touch the ancient history, and in the literal and figurative sense of this phrase. Let's start with the history of this place.
A bit of history
The Wailing Wall is on the border of a place called the "Temple Mount". The word "mountain" is only called, but in fact it is difficult to even name it a hill. Now it only resembles an elevated square or plateau.
It was here that the First Temple (the main temple of Judaism) was built. It was built by King Solomon in 825 BC and stood until 422 BC, when it was destroyed by the king of Babylon - Nebuchadnezzar II. The Jews were enslaved and taken to Babylon.
In 368 BC they returned and built the Second Temple in the same place. The second Temple stood until the year 70 AD, when it was destroyed by order of the famous emperor of the Roman Empire - Vespasian.
When the temple was destroyed, the Romans "shalturili" - not all buildings were destroyed. The second Temple along the perimeter was surrounded by a wall erected by the king Herod the Great. This wall did not belong directly to the Second Temple, but carried a technical function - it supported the soil. The Romans have not touched the western part of this wall, and it is all that remains of the main temple of Judaism.
The Romans not only destroyed the Second Temple, but also prohibited Jews from accessing Jerusalem, except one day a year. In the Byzantine period, the times of the Arab Caliphate and the reign of Mamlyukov, the situation was no better.
In 1517, Jerusalem fell under the rule of the Ottoman Empire (the Turks), and the Turks treated the Jew favorably. Officially the Jews were allowed to pray at the Western Wall by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, which many readers know on the television series "The Magnificent Age."
Since that moment, the Wailing Wall has become the main subject of disagreement between the Jewish and Muslim communities. The Jews tried several times to buy the surrounding buildings, but failed. The Muslims were very afraid to give any property in the area, fearing the Jews' claims to Jerusalem. The confrontation escalated after 1917, when Palestine came under British control.
This confrontation reached its peak on August 16, 1929, when riots broke out near the wall. A few days of pogroms in Jerusalem killed 133 Jews and 339 were wounded. On the Arab side, 110 people died.
In 1930, the British collected a commission to resolve the dispute of the communities. This commission established the inviolability of the Muslim quarter near the Wailing Wall, but allowed the Jew free access and rituals.
In the course of the Arab-Israeli war of 1948-49, this part of Jerusalem departed from the kind of control of Jordan. According to the armistice agreement, Jews had free access to the Western Wall. But in fact, they were not allowed to enter here.
June 5, 1967, the Six-Day War began. During a lightning-fast military operation, Israel defeated the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Egypt was captured by the Sinai Peninsula, Syria has Golan Heights, but Israel's most valuable success in this war was the seizure of Jerusalem. A photo of Israeli paratroopers at the Western Wall (look to the left) flew around the world.
The Western Wall is now in Israeli territory, and no one can prohibit the Jews from accessing it. Every day thousands of Jews come here to ...
What do the Jews do at the Western Wall?
First of all, they pray. For Russians it looks a bit strange. They swing on their heels and at the same time make short inclinations forward. And they do it very vigorously, and some of this whole procedure seems amusing.
In parallel, the sacred texts are read, and the roar is incredible. Some pray so that the forehead touches the stones. Just at that moment, the saying goes: "Make someone pray to God, he will break his forehead."
Do not think that we want to laugh. Any religious ritual worthy of respect, if it is aimed at cultivating the good and happiness of people. Just Jewish rituals look very unusual for us.
The second important tradition is to insert pieces of paper with prayers and requests to God between the stones of the Wailing Wall. It is believed that this prayer has the greatest chance of being heard by the Almighty.
Some Jews kiss stones, some cry and lament, remembering the lost shrines of their people. Hence the name "The Wailing Wall", although we do not recommend using this name when traveling to Israel. Perhaps, let's talk about this in more detail.
The name "Kotel" many Jews consider offensive. And they can be understood, this name hints at the weakness of the Israelis. And how can we name a weak nation, which in six days defeated three neighbors with armies that exceed the number of dozens of times?
In the world more often use another name - "Western Wall". It logically follows from its location in the west of the site of the temple.
The Hebrew name is pronounced "HaKotal HaMaravi" and is translated exactly as "Western Wall".
It is also called Kotel, which is translated as a "wall". If you need to get to the Wailing Wall by taxi, then you can just say the word "kotel", and the taxi driver will understand everything. The stress is put on the second syllable.
When a Jew says "The Wall", he means exactly the Wailing Wall, as the Chinese mean then the Great Wall of China . No wonder, because the Jews pray to the side of the Western Wall, as Muslims pray to Mecca. But, the Jewish prayers have their own peculiarities.
How and when do the Jews pray in the direction of the Western Wall?
The statement that the Jews pray in the direction of the Wailing Wall is not entirely true, and the analogy with Islam is also very doubtful. The direction is important only for one prayer, called "Shmoneh-Esre" or "Amida." This is the basic prayer that the faithful Jew should read three times a day.
The rules of the direction in the prayer "Shmone-Esre" are as follows:
If a Jew is outside Israel, he must turn to face Israel.
If a Jew is in Israel, but not in Jerusalem, then he must face Jerusalem.
If a Jew is in Jerusalem, he must face the Temple Mount.
As you can see from the instructions, the Wailing Wall does not matter.
In addition, there are several exceptions to these rules. If the person praying can not determine the direction (for example, there is no compass and no sun is visible), if he is not strong in geography or can not determine the direction for other reasons, then it's okay.
Agree, these norms are very different from Islamic, when Muslims always pray only towards Mecca.
The Kotel itself is the most sacred place of prayer for the Jews, because they are forbidden to pray on the Temple Mount itself.
What is the Kotel now?
It is quite long - 488 meters. Most of it is hidden behind the houses of the Muslim quarter and is inaccessible to Jews and tourists. Only two sections are open.
The first section is about 60 meters long, and in front of it is the "Western Wall Square" (pictured left). This is the site visited by tourists, and here most pilgrims pray. The area is divided by a partition into two parts - male and female (pictured left).
Many Russian tourists are struck by the division of the wall into sections for men and women. If to the similar things in Islam Russians have already got used, from Judaism such very few wait.
The second section has a length of only about 8 meters, and it is called the "Little Western Wall".
The Wailing Wall is high - 19 meters above the ground, and a part of it is underground, and the total height is estimated at about 32 meters. According to the research, only the lower large blocks belong to the times of Herod the Great. The blocks above were installed in the era of the Arab Caliphate, and the uppermost stones date back to the Ottoman rule.
Along the Wailing Wall underground tunnels are laid. You can take part in a tour of these tunnels, it will take one hour. Naturally, a separate fee is charged for visiting the dungeon.
You can walk to the Wailing Wall for free.
A tour of the tunnels costs 30 Israeli shekels for an adult visitor and 15 for a child.
The Western Wall is open 24/7/365.
The tunnels are open from Sunday to Thursday from 7 am until the evening, and on Friday from 7 am to noon.
How much time should a tourist visit
If you are not a Jew and do not intend to pray, then more than 30 minutes you can not plan. The atmosphere here is clearly unhappy, and the noise is annoying. Most tourists around the Wailing Wall for longer than 15 minutes can not stand it.
Anyone can leave a note between the stones. If you are determined to do this, it is recommended that you write a message to God in advance and take it with you.
How to get there
Perhaps, this is one of the biggest problems for tourists in Jerusalem.
Take a taxi - the most convenient way, but also the most expensive - about 5 shekels per kilometer. If you are able to pay such money, then choose this method.
There is no metro in Jerusalem, only buses and high-speed trams. The main problem in the use of buses - tourists do not know what to get there and where to change seats. We recommend that you ask the staff of your hotel which bus (which buses) you can reach to the Wailing Wall. By the way, the ticket for a bus in Israel is not cheap - from 6 shekels.
You can save money by visiting the local tour desk. Just buy a tour of interesting attractions, so it will be cheaper and faster.
- During Shabbat here it is forbidden to smoke, take photos and use mobile phones.
- Entrance with pets to the "Western Wall Square" is prohibited.
- It is forbidden to bring musical instruments to the wall. A very strange ban, as it seems to us.
- Visitors must be in the headdress. If you do not have it, you can take kepi directly on the square.
- Clothes should be modest.
- You can approach the Wailing Wall and leave only by face.
- Follow the instructions of security officers, do not argue with them and do not conflict.
We wish you interesting excursions around Jerusalem, and read our other articles about Israel ( links below ).
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