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Wailing Wall in Jerusalem

The "Wailing Wall" (also: Western Wall) located in Jerusalem, is considered by both Jews and Muslims as a significant and holy site. For the Jews, it is one of the last remaining portions of the ancient Temple of Solomon (an outer wall, in fact). The original length is estimated to have been around 485 meters; today what remains is just 60 meters long. The largest stone is 45 feet long, 15 feet deep, 15 feet high, and has an estimated weight of more than one million pounds.

No one knows when it the Jewish tradition of offering prayers there, but it is believed that this portion of the Temple was not destroyed because the Shekhinah (divine presence) continues to reside there. Thus, praying there is like praying directly to God through the wall. Originally called simply the Western Wall, it acquired the name Wailing Wall because of the nature of the prayers said there. In addition to spoken prayers, it is also common for prayers to be written on slips are paper (kvitlach) which are slipped into the cracks.

There is a large plaza here open 24 hours a day. In the middle is a fence (mechitza) separating men from women - Orthodox Jewish men don't believe that it is acceptable to pray right alongside women. Men, of course, are given the much larger area for prayers.

For Muslims, it is not only part of the huge platform which forms the foundation of the Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, but it is also believed to be the gate through which Muhammad was carried by a mythical creature known as the Buraq when he arrived at Jerusalem for his ascent to heaven (miraj).

Control of the Wailing Wall is a contentious issue between Jews and Muslims in Jerusalem. When that portion of Jerusalem was under Arab control, it was difficult for Jews to visit the Wailing Wall to pray. Now that it is under Israeli control, both Muslims and Jews have access. However, there are many Jews who regard the reconstruction of Solomon's Temple as a primary goal and this would require the destruction of the mosques above.


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