The Wailing Wall

The Western Wall, known in the West as the Wailing Wall, and in Islam as the Buraq Wall is a portion of ancient limestone wall in the Old City of Jerusalem that forms part of the larger retaining wall of the hill known to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount.

Just over half the wall’s total height, including its 17 courses  below street level, dates from the end of the Second Temple period, and is believed to have been begun by Herod the Great.The very large stone blocks of the lower courses are Herodian, the courses of medium-sized stones above them were added during the  Umayyad period, while the small stones of the uppermost courses are of more recent date, especially from the Ottoman period.

The Western Wall plays an important role in Judaism due to its proximity to the Temple Mount. The Wall is the holiest place where Jews are permitted to pray outside the previous Temple Mount platform. The site also has a place in Muslim tradition. It is believed to be where the Islamic Prophet Muhammad ascended to paradise. The wall borders the Al-Aqsa compound, site of the Dome of the Rock.

The term “Wailing Wall”, refers to the practice of Jews weeping at the site. During the period of Christian Roman rule over Jerusalem two thousand years ago,  Jews were completely barred from Jerusalem except on the day of national mourning for the Temples. The term “Wailing Wall” has historically been used mainly by Christians.

With the rise of the Zionist movement in the early 20th century, the wall became a source of friction between the Jewish and Muslim communities, the latter being worried that the wall could be used to further Jewish claims to the Temple Mount and thus Jerusalem. During this period outbreaks of violence at the foot of the wall became commonplace, with a particularly deadly riot in 1929 in which more than 200 Jews and Arabs were killed, with many more  injured.

After the 1948 Arab–Israeli War the eastern portion of Jerusalem was occupied by Jordan. Under Jordanian control Jews were completely expelled from the Old City including the Jewish Quarter, and Jews were barred from entering the Old City for 19 years, effectively banning Jewish prayer at the site of the Western Wall.

This period ended in  1967, when Israel gained control of the site following the Six-Day War. After establishing control over the Western Wall site, the Moroccan Quarter was bulldozed by Israeli authorities to create space for what is now the Western Wall plaza.