10. Why is the Wailing Wall so important for the Jews?



Because the Wailing Wall (the Jews calls it the Western Wall), being the western section of the outside wall of the temple’s mount, the only construction of the Herod’s addition to the second temple (which was destroyed by the Roman army in 70 A.D.) left over, has kept the holiness of the temple in the Jewish conscience, even though it was not an actual part of the temple itself. Therefore, for the Jews the Wailing Wall is a holy place. Some details about the wall: it consists of a layer of blocks which date back to the time of Herod, upon which there are stones of the Roman period, while the whole upper section belongs to the Arab period (from the seventh century onwards).

Those who were not Jews called it ‘Wailing Wall’ because the Jews went to wail before it – some Jews still wail before it – because the temple had been destroyed. The Jews go on a pilgrimage to the Wailing Wall and they kiss the stones of it. Furthermore, the Jews have the custom of writing some prayers upon some little pieces of paper which are inserted between the Wall’s stones. They do this because their tradition says that the Divine Presence (in Hebrew Shekhinah) never leaves the Wailing Wall.

In 1967, during the six days war, as soon as the Israelian troops conquered the Eastern part of Jerusalem the soldiers rushed to the Wailing Wall (where the Jews had not been able to go since the end of 1947, that is, since the Arabs had taken control of the Old part of Jerusalem) where they began to weep out of the emotion and to pray. Moshe Dayan, who was Minister of Defence at that time, on that memorable day for Israel proclaimed before the Wall that the Jews had come back to their most sacred places and he scribbled a few words on a piece of paper and inserted his prayer between the Wall’s stones: ‘May peace descend upon the whole House of Israel.’