The Wailing Wall Series – Introduction

The builders of the Western Wall could never have fathomed that one day their modest creation would become the most important religious shrine for the Jewish people. Indeed, when it was built some 2000 years ago it was merely a retaining wall supporting the outer portion of the Temple Mount, upon which stood the Second Temple.

According to rabbinical texts, the shechina (divine presence) never deserted the wall and it’s regarded as the most holy of all Jewish sites. The Wall grew as a place of pilgrimage during the Ottoman period and Jews would come to mourn and lament their ancient loss – hence the term the Wailing Wall.

The area immediately in front of the Wall now operates as a great open-air synagogue. It’s divided into two areas, a small southern section for women and a more active, larger northern section for men. Here, the black-garbed Hasidim rock backwards and forwards on their heels, bobbing their heads in prayer, occasionally breaking off to press themselves against the Wall and kiss the stones.

Also visible at close quarters are the wads of paper stuffed into the cracks in the stone wall: it’s a belief that prayers inserted into the Wall have a better than average chance of being answered. [Lonely Planet]