Holy Land Pilgrimage Day 8

This morning we traveled to the Western Wall. The old walls that surround the Temple Mount are just massive. Looking at the types of stones that were used, their sizing of them, and the details of manufacturing, we can determine which King or empire built what and when. There is so much that has been destroyed, covered, and built upon here. The archeological digs have uncovered a lot of ancient ruins that are fascinating to see.

Western 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 located 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. Because of the Temple Mount entry restrictions, the Wall is the holiest place where Jews are permitted to pray outside the previous Temple Mount platform, as the presumed site of the Holy of Holies, the most sacred site in the Jewish faith, lies just behind it. The original, natural, and irregular-shaped Temple Mount was gradually extended to allow for an ever-larger Temple compound to be built at its top. The earliest source mentioning this specific site as a place of Jewish worship is from the 17th century. It also has a place in Muslim tradition, in which it is believed to be the site where the Islamic Prophet Muhammad tied his winged steed, al-Buraq, on his Isra and Mi’raj to Jerusalem before ascending to paradise, and constitutes the western border of al-Haram al-Sharif (“the Noble Sanctuary”), or the Al-Aqsa compound.

The term Western Wall and its variations are mostly used in a narrow sense for the section of the wall used for Jewish prayer and called the “Wailing Wall”, referring to the practice of Jews weeping at the site. During the period of Christian Roman rule over Jerusalem (ca. 324–638), Jews were completely barred from Jerusalem except on Tisha B’Av, the day of national mourning for the Temples.

Southern Steps on Southern Wall

The Southern Wall is the retaining wall of the Temple Mount at the southern end. It was built during King Herod’s expansion of the Temple Mount platform southward onto the Ophel.

The staircase that went into the temple still remains and Jesus would have walked on them as he entered the complex. In addition, there are a number of excavated ruins that surround the area and more archaeological discoveries are being made today as they are excavating up to the wall itself.

Rabbinical Tunnels

The Western Wall Tunnel is a tunnel exposing the Western Wall slightly north from where the traditional, open-air prayer site ends and up to the Wall’s northern end. Most of the tunnel is in continuation of the open-air Western Wall and is located under buildings of the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. While the open-air portion of the Western Wall is approximately 60 meters (200 ft) long, the majority of its original length of 488 meters (1,601 ft) is hidden underground. The tunnel allows access to the remainder of the Wall in a northerly direction.

The tunnel is connected to several adjacent excavated underground spaces, many of which can be visited together with the main tunnel. For this reason, the plural form, Western Wall Tunnels, is often used.

A synagogue was built in the tunnel at the closest point to the holy of holies one can get to at the western wall.

Church of Flagellation

The Church of the Flagellation is a Roman Catholic church and Christian pilgrimage site located in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, near St. Stephen’s Gate (also called Lions’ Gate). It is part of a Franciscan monastery which also includes the Church of the Condemnation and Imposition of the Cross. The monastery stands at the traditional Second Station of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa.

Walking Around Jerusalem

Here are some sights and sounds of walking around the old part of Jerusalem.


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