The Kotel, also known as the Western Wall and the Wailing Wall, is not part of either the First Temple, destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE or the Second Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. It is however part of the Herodian wall supporting the extended Temple Mount platform built in the first century BCE.

Having fought for three long years to quell the Jewish revolt, the victorious Romans completely destroyed the Jewish Temple, its courtyards and the colonnaded market place built by Herod. Building blocks and columns were tossed down, on the western and southern sides, to the pavement below.

Buried under centuries of dirt and debris and then built upon they, and the western and southern walls, were revealed in excavations over the last few decades and can be seen by visiting the Davidson Centre and the Kotel Tunnel.

However, for two thousand years one small section of the 485 meter western wall was exposed, a small section to which, despite the dangers, Jews came to pray and to weep for the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Thus it became known as the Wailing Wall.

Through the centuries and until the end of the British Mandate in 1948 Jews were not allowed to pray freely and blowing the Shofar was punishable by a prison sentence. Between 1948 and 1967 there were no Jews in the Jordanian-controlled Old City and no Jews were permitted entry to Jordan, so for nineteen years no Jews visited the Western Wall.

In the aftermath of the Six Day War, with the unification of the city, Jews had, for the first time, unhindered access to the Kotel. To cope with the flood of visitors, Jews and non-Jews alike, (including two popes) the area in front of the Kotel was extended.

Mondays and Thursdays are particularly joyous as young boys from all over Israel and the world celebrate their bar mitzva and read from the Torah for the first time.

Text content copyrights: Bein Harim Ltd., Beryl Ratzer (www.ratzer.com)

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