This wall, also called the Western Wall or the Kotel, lies at the foot of the Temple Mount, in the heart of the Old City, and is the last remnant of the ancient Jewish Temple. Its religious significance is, therefore, easy to understand, and it has naturally become the most sacred religious site for those of the Jewish faith, other than the Temple Mount itself.
Construction of the Wall, which includes 17 underground courses, began during King Herod’s reign, but was then halted until the 7th century, from which point further layers were added. Walking its current length of 488m, most of which hidden by residential structures, will no doubt constitute a mandatory challenge for anyone walking in Israel! Of this total length, roughly 60m are set aside for prayer, and have become synonymous with the Wall itself in most foreigners’ minds.
With the rise of the Zionist movement, the Wailing Wall became a source of friction between Muslims and Jews. In 1930, a committee was summoned to peacefully solve this argument, after a series of violent encounters at the foot of the Wall. With the outbreak of the Arab-Israeli war, the structure was seized by Jordanian armies, and the Jewish faithful were banned from the site for nineteen years. Israel eventually regained control of the space in 1967, but the site continues to be the object of controversy between Jews and Muslims to this day.
The act of praying in front of the Wailing Wall is considered akin to doing so in front of the Gates of Heaven. The site has been the object of Jewish pilgrimage for centuries, most notably on D-Day 1944, when thousands of believers gathered there to pray for the success of the Allied troops. Jewish laws also state that, upon visiting the site, one should wail and rend their garments to mourn for the destruction of the Temple (hence the Wall’s common name.)