The Western Wall is the impressive wall that surrounds the Temple Mount and borders it from the west. According to Jewish tradition, this is where the Temple was built and destroyed twice, within which the ‘Holy of Holies’ – the holiest place for the Jewish people, to which only the High Priest was entitled – and only on Yom Kippur.
The Western Wall is the most important site that every Jew aspires to visit. Throughout history, many have risked their lives and even lost them to fulfill the Jewish dream – to have the privilege of seeing the Western Wall with their own eyes, to feel the stones of the Western Wall under their hands, and, of course, to pray there.
Apart from its unparalleled religious importance, the Western Wall is of the most significant national and historical significance. The Western Wall is also impressive in its size and strength: the length of the Western Wall is about 488 meters, with the highest point being about 40 meters high. Queen limestones make up the Western Wall – with each stone having a different weight and size. Also, each of the stones has its documentation in an advanced computerized system to maintain each stone’s condition as an individual and the entire Western Wall.
The Western Wall – according to Jewish tradition
According to Tractate Brachot, the first Tractate in six Mishnahs, Jews must pray with their heart inclined towards Jerusalem and the Temple:
And they prayed to this house; he stood in the temple – he would direct his heart against the Holy of Holies. All Israel was found leading their hearts to one place – a Western Wall.
Sages believed that “a Shechinah never moved from the Western Wall of the Temple” and even in the Midrash Shir Hashirim Rabba, Parsha 2, verse 9, the great importance of the Western Wall is mentioned in words: “Here it stands behind our wall,” From which the divine revelation did not move.
The beginning of the prayer at the Western Wall can be assumed to be parallel to the Jewish community’s development in the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, towards the 14th century. The first testimonies – records of the sages of Israel, Rabbis, and Jewish travelers from around the world, date from the 16th century and indicate that prayer was already common in the place. Although the date is uncertain, the reason for praying at the Western Wall is agreed upon by everyone, and it is clear – this is the closest place to the Holy of Holies. Today, at all hours of the day, you can see many worshipers in the Western Wall plaza, an orderly plaza dedicated to prayer.
The Western Wall and its national significance
Throughout history, the Western Wall has known conflicts and controversies and conquests and various authorities. Undoubtedly, one of the most moving and beloved images, which has become an integral part of Israeli culture, is the famous victory image of photographer David Rubinger, from June 7, 1967, in which three paratroopers look at the Western Wall, which returned to Israel at the end of the Six-Day War.
The importance of the Western Wall to Israel, like its importance to the Jewish people, is well known and felt. Apart from the Bar Mitzvah ceremonies – the maturation ceremonies in the Jewish tradition, which are common in the area – many of the IDF swearing-in ceremonies are held in the presence of senior military officials, dignitaries, guests, and families, in a fascinating time.
Arriving at the Western Wall and praying there
The Western Wall is not only the heart of Jerusalem religiously and historically, but its location is also very central – the heart of the Jewish Quarter. In the area, there are many paid parking lots, which are usually busy – and it is recommended to get there by public transport.
From the central station of Jerusalem, you can reach the Western Wall on bus lines 1 and 3 of Egged. If you are in the Jewish Quarter, you can travel on lines 38 or 38A, which have a circular route around the Jewish Quarter, which also passes through the Western Wall. From the Jerusalem train station – Yitzhak Navon, you can reach the “municipality” station by light rail. From there, continue on foot – it is about a twenty-minute walk through the Jewish Quarter, which is highly recommended to visit – and we even have recommendations for routes for you!
The walls of the Old Jerusalem and the Tower of David, from the Jaffa Gate to the Horba Synagogue and from the Horba Synagogue to the Western Wall.
The entrance to the Western Wall is open to the public and is free of charge. Remember that this is a very sacred place, and be sure to dress modestly. A well-known custom is to bury a note in the Western Wall – according to the belief, in this way, requests come from the heart to God. There is no improper request – and apart from praying on the spot, you can write on a note and ask for everything on your mind.