In each issue of Jewish Voice MESSENGER, we’ll present a different Israel site for you to guess as “it” tells you about its biblical or historic significance. We’ll also provide a bit of information about the location today.
So, what am I?
I am thousands of years old. I have heard the noisy goats as they were prepared to atone for sin. I listened to the prayers of the priests lifting up Israel’s sins, seeking God’s forgiveness. I have heard their worship of the only true God.
I heard a couple’s soft footfalls as they carried a baby up the Temple steps. I heard the wonder in Simeon’s voice as he received the infant Jesus in his arms. “Now may Your servant go in peace,” he said, “for my eyes have seen Your salvation!”
Twelve years later, I heard that same boy astonish rabbis with His understanding of the Holy Scriptures. Later, I listened as the devil taunted Him to prove Himself the Messiah by jumping off the Temple’s highest point. And I heard the Messiah’s rebuke that followed.
I heard the blind and lame shout with joy because Jesus had healed them. I remember the money changers cheating worshipers with false exchange rates – and Jesus’ zeal as He drove them out, shouting, “Stop making My Father’s house a marketplace!” Another day, I heard Him extol a poor widow for the enormous gift that was her small offering.
I remember the darkened sky on the day He died. The earth underneath me shook, and then I heard the Temple veil tear in two.
But He rose from the dead and then ascended to the Father. After that, I heard His early disciples passionately preaching in the Temple that He is the Messiah. And I heard them being led away to jail by those who believed their words blasphemed the Holy God.
For centuries, the Jewish people could not reach me. Then, one day, amid the tumult of war, I heard Israeli paratroopers float down to reclaim control of the Temple Mount for the Jewish people.
Visitors from the world over marvel that I still stand. They touch my warm, golden stones and tuck written prayers between them. I stand straight and tall in Jerusalem as the holiest prayer site in Judaism. I am the Western Wall.
The Western Wall is as near as Jewish people can get to worshipping where their Temple once stood. Roman Emperor Titus destroyed the Second Temple in 70 C.E. The following year, he had it plowed over, leaving nothing but what we call the Temple Mount today. In centuries since then, Muslims built the Al Aqsa Mosque and the famous Dome of the Rock shrine on the Temple site. Until the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel had no access to the Western Wall.
The Hebrew for Western Wall is HaKotel HaMa’aravi, often shortened to The Kotel. The Kotel is one of the original retaining walls forming the foundation for the Temple. It is more than 1,600 feet long, most of which is underground.
The Prayer Plaza was built after 1967. It exposes about 187 feet of the Wall and receives millions of visitors each year as well as many bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies. Twenty-nine layers of ancient hewn stones rise 62 feet above the Plaza while another 17 layers are underground.
Adjacent to the Western Wall is a tunnel system that connects to the Temple Mount’s northwest side, traveling underneath present-day houses in Jerusalem’s Old City. In the Temple Tunnels, you see the Wall from behind, from underground. With arches, stairways, information stops and virtual models, you begin to grasp the Wall’s full length and the magnitude of the Temple that once stood above it.
Visitors from the world over marvel that I still stand. They touch my warm, golden stones and tuck written prayers between them.
The internet has brought the Kotel to us with several sites hosting live webcams. And through the Western Wall Heritage Foundation’s website, you can send a note that they’ll tuck in the Wall for you. You can also send names of loved ones, and the synagogue located in the Temple Tunnels will pray at the Wall for their health.
Millions of hearts have been moved as they’ve prayed at the stones of the Western Wall. Jesus walked near those stones. In the Temple above them, He prayed and taught and healed. Those who touch them today touch a piece of biblical history.
Want to experience the Western Wall for yourself? Join us on the Jewish Voice Israel Tour 2021, October 10–20.