The Western Wall and Tunnels
The Western Wall –
According to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, the section of the Western Wall that is visible at the Prayer Plaza is comprised of 46 layers of stone. Twenty nine of these layers are exposed above ground and contain stones from different time periods. The remaining seventeen layers are subterranean.
The lowest seven levels, which are visible today, were built by Herod the Great who ruled over Palestine (name derived from Philistia) about 37 BCE to 4 BCE. In 70 CE, the Romans destroyed the Second Temple, and the remains of the west side are still visible today. These remains that we see today are believed to be the part of the Temple that was closest to the Holy of Holies, the inner part of the Temple.
The visible height of the Western Wall is 62 feet and the underground wall is about 43 feet in height. The length of the wall is about 1,600 feet but the visible wall is only 229 feet of its length. The rest is either being excavated or most of it is hidden by houses in the Muslim Quarter that were built up against it over the past several centuries.
The Western Wall Tunnels –
According to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Western Wall Tunnels project commenced following the Six-Day War in 1967, as an effort to expose additional portions of this wall, in order to learn more about both the wall itself and the various structures in its vicinity of various periods. Till then, only a small portion of the wall had been exposed.
Regular vertical excavation peels away strata from top to bottom. Excavation in tunnels, a common method in the 19th century, penetrates whatever strata in the middle. In this case, a man-made tunnel was excavated with care to insure structural support of the houses above the tunnels.
After the Six Day War
In 1948, Israel was reborn. However, Jordan controlled the Western Wall until 1967. After the Six Day War, Israel again controlled the territory. This precious photo was contributed by Dr. Rasmussen who was at the spot with his wife and took this photo.
Around the 19thcentury, the Western Wall was called the Wailing Wall when Palestine was controlled by the foreign persecutors.The Jewish people lamented toward the Temple and prayed for the Temple to be rebuilt. Today, this Wall is still a place for prayer for people all over the world. A friendly reminder — photo taking is prohibited during the Sabbath.
Entrance to the Western Wall
There are four entrances to the Western Wall: The Jaffa Gate, the New Gate, the Damascus Gate, and the Zion Gate. This is the Zion Gate. At every gate, you need to go through a security checkpoint.
Men's side of the wall
At the Western Wall in Jerusalem, women and men pray in divided separate sections. Men in prayer on the men’s side of the wall.
Women's side of the wall
At the Western Wall in Jerusalem, women and men pray in divided separate sections. Women in prayer on the women’s side of the wall.
Prayer in Women's side of the Wall
You may notice in the women’s side of the wall, on the left of the woman leaving from the small prayer room, there is a very large stone which was a top portion of the Barclay’s Gate built by Herod the Great.
According to SJTM, it says: “From Barclay’s Gate, a subterranean internal stairway led up to the surface of the Temple Mount, opening on the western Temple Court.”
The Gate was blocked by some smaller stones as you can see.
*Photo was contributed by Dr. Rasmussen
Clock in Women's side of the wall
What a beautiful clock in the women’s side of the wall! Does anyone know where this clock came from? If so, please send us a comment!
Entrance to the Western Wall Tunnels
Due to the Coronavirus lockdown, you can now explore the Western Wall Tunnel through a 360-degree live experience for virtual tourists. Please check this website: https://thekotel.org/en/tours/the-western-wall-tunnels-360/
Sign to the Tunnels
Going all the way down to the Tunnels. I cannot wait to see the segments of the Wall. I also can touch the original stones as if I am going to touch its past and history.
First stop, we have an introductory video, showing us how Herod the Great built and expanded this Second Temple. Since the temple was on Mount Moriah where was narrow and steep, Herod’s solution was to build huge walls around the mountain that would support a giant platform as a foundation, and then constructed the temple in the center of the platform.
Inside the Tunnels
Going down to the tunnels, we can see some of the ancient Roman pavements. The Romans were famous for building. Roman pavements or streets were as straight as possible, paved with stones, and wide enough for two chariots to pass each other.
Women's Prayer in the western wall tunnels
Although the women’s side in the Western Wall is too small compared to the men’s side, this women’s prayer spot in the tunnel gains the best location because it is closer to the Holy of Holies.
There are three water channels here that brought and reserved water for the needs of people and the Temple in the ancient time.
First, there is an ancient Hasmonean Water Cistern. And then, a Hasmonean aqueduct that brought water to the cistern near and under the Temple. And finally, the Struthion Pool.
Hasmonean Aqueduct Tunnel
This water channel originally supplied water to the Temple Mount, the exact source of the channel is unknown. The tunnel was dated to the Hasmonean period around 2nd -1st century BCE.
The Western Wall tunnels end here, a small and shallow Struthion pool built by Hasmoneans. The pool continues on the other side, but there it is under the control of the Catholic Sisters of Zion convent. Therefore, tourists either return to the entrance or the northern exit which is next to this Struthion Pool, existing on the Via Dolorosa, a public street.
When I was there in 2017, there were two fish swimming around. I wonder how they are doing now? Has anyone seen them in the past?
You can see through the 1st century mikveh on the ground.
The windows and doors of these ancient residential houses can still be seen in the Tunnel.
The Largest Stone
During the excavation, a stone was found that was approximately 44 feet long and 10 feet wide. It weighed about 570 tons. That is the approximate weight of one and a half Boeing airplanes. Even today, the most powerful crane cannot lift it. It is still a mystery how this giant rock was carried. Because of the size of this stone, the Roman soldiers spared it from the destruction.
The excavation is ongoing. When you go all the way down to the end of the Northern Cardo, you can see that the ancient Roman Road was still left unfinished, but no one knows why the construction was stopped.