What is the Western Wall?

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The Western Wall is a wall in the Old City of Jerusalem in Israel. It is a remnant of the complex on which the Second Jewish Temple once stood. Today it is considered on of the holiest sites in Judaism, the Temple Mount however remains to be the most holy place in the world for the Jewish people. It is sad therefore they are not allowed to pray there.

The Western Wall is also known as the Wailing Wall. Many people think that the Wailing Wall owes its name to the fact that you can go there with all your complaints. This is a misunderstanding.

After the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, many Jews gathered at the only remaining wall of the Temple complex: the western wall of the plateau on which the Temple was built. Because of the mourning over the destruction of the Temple, the wall was soon jokingly called the “Wailing Wall” by non-Jews.

Jews themselves speak of the Western Wall, in Hebrew HaKotel HaMa’aravi, often shortened to Kotel.

The Western Wall is adjacent to the Temple Mount. This mountain is called the Temple Mount because the second Jewish Temple complex build by king Herod once stood upon it. He built the wall and embellished it. You’ll read about this in the New Testament for instance in John 2:20.

In Psalm 132, God says of this place that it is His resting place forever.

“For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling: ‘This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.’” Psalm 132:13-14

Why place a note in the Western Wall? 

Many Jewish and non-Jewish visitors put a little prayer note in the Western Wall after saying a prayer. This ritual probably originated in the eighteenth century, when Rabbi Chaim ibn Attar instructed a needy man to place an amulet between the stones of the wall.

The idea of the prayer notes is consistent with Jewish tradition, in which it is believed that the Divine presence has never left the Temple and human prayers still ascend to heaven through the Western Wall.

Today, hundreds of thousands of notes are placed between the stones of the wall each year. Twice a year (around Passover and the Jewish New Year) special cleaning teams collect the prayers. Because the destruction of sacred texts is forbidden in Judaism, the notes are buried on the Mount of Olives.