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What is the History behind the Wailing Wall?

A Brief History of the Wailing Wall?


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One of the most recognizable icons of the new world is Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall. Also known as the Western Wall, it’s believed by countless people to either be a part of an immense Jewish temple or a part of the temple’s courtyard. This stone wall unfolds to almost 62 feet or 18.9 m from the ground. The Wailing Wall is a sacred site honored by the Jews, and millions of people from all over the world journey to the wall every year. It’s also a big bone of contention among Muslims and Jews, with both groups citing history to justify their claim to the Wall. Muslims believe it to be part of a mosque or the wall where the prophet Muhammad tied his winged horse during his renowned Night Journey. Most pilgrims pray at the wall’s main section, 187 feet long structure that’s made from meleke limestone. The majority of the Wall’s stones are about 4,000 pounds or more. One particular stone, known as the Western Stone, is said to weigh more than a million pounds. The Wailing Wall has 28 stone layers that jut aboveground and 17 more layers buried underground. A tunnel is said to run along the wall’s length.

History of the Western Wall

• It’s believed by Jews and other races to be part of the Second Temple. This Jewish temple is said to have existed for centuries. It’s also said that King Herod had the Second Temple renovated and expanded on in 19 B.C., but the work took 50 years to finish. A few years after renovation on the temple ended, it was destroyed when Rome attacked the city in 70 A.D and the Wailing Wall is believed to be the only part of the structure that was left. Jews started to visit the wall after it was destroyed to pray and mourn. Since then, it was given the moniker The Wailing Wall by non-Jewish people when they saw Jews wailing over their loss. The wall is actually called the Western Wall by Jews or by its Hebrew name Kotel HaMaaravi.

• Muslims have another name for the Wailing Wall. They call it the Al-Buraq Wall, a reference to Muhammad’s winged horse. The Muslims believe that their prophet Muhammad tied the horse to the while he went to speak with God. They also think the Al-Buraq Wall was part of the Al-Aqsa, an ancient and historical mosque. They say the Jews only started praying at the wall during the 16th century.

Who Controls the Wall

The city of Jerusalem has been standing for more than 3,500 years and has been attacked countless enemies. The city has also been seized several times during its long history and control of both the city and the Wall has been a crucial issue during those times. As a matter of fact, control of the Wailing Wall was still a bone of contention well into the 20th and 21st centuries. Leaders of the Arab world had jurisdiction of the wall at the beginning of the 20th century. However, the rise of Israel led Jews to attain control of the Wailing Wall in 1967. The fight over control of the wall is at the heart of the friction between Israel and its Arab neighbors and the bitterness over this issue has seeped into the relationship of every country involved.

Even there’s still animosity among the Jews and Muslims, the Wailing Wall was instrumental in establishing good relations between the Catholics and the Jews. Pope John Paul II historically prayed at the Wall in 2000 and became known as the first ever pope to do so. The good pope also asked for forgiveness for the Catholic oppression of Jews that lasted centuries and even called them the "elder brothers” of Catholics.

How to Pray at the Wall

Aside from Jews that come from all over the world, people of other religious backgrounds also go to the Wall to pray. It’s believed that those who do have the "ear of God." Those who wish to pray at the Wall but couldn’t make the journey can send their prayers in or request for the Kaddish, a Jewish prayer, to be said in honor of their loved ones who have departed the world. These prayers are sent in and placed into the kvitelach or cracks found on the wall. A minimal charge is levied for this service, which is dependent on the company hired to perform the prayer. These prayers are then burned and buried once they have reached a certain number. The Wailing Wall is open at all hours and people can visit and pray there any time. However, security is understandably very strict and every visitor goes through a security search. Plus women, regardless of their religion, are required to dress modestly to show respect for the Judaic law. Men and women are assigned different areas to enter, but they can rejoin their companies once they reach the Wailing Wall.

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