Western Wall


Western Wall
   Also known by its Hebrew name, HaKotel HaMa'aravi, or simply, the Kotel (literally, "The Wall"). It is located on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem's old city. It is all that remains of the Temple of Biblical times. Its alternate name, "Wailing Wall," is derived from the sorrowful prayers said there in mourning for the destruction of the Temple. According to legend, the Wall itself weeps over the destruction of the Temple. Observant Jews mark the destruction of first and second Temples on the ninth day of the Hebrew of Av (and the period leading up to it).
   The first Temple was built by King Solomon in the 10th century BCE. It was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The second Temple was built in 539 BCE but was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Each Temple stood for a period of about four centuries. Herod the Great built vast retaining walls around Mount Moriah, expanding the small, quasinatural plateau on which the first and second Temples stood into the wide open spaces of the Temple Mount seen today. The Wall, which is some 160 feet long, was the western wall of the Temple courtyard. According to Jewish tradition, it was the only part of the outer courtyard that remained standing after the Roman legions' destruction of the second Temple. Jewish scholars explain that Titus left it standing as a bitter reminder to the Jews that Rome had vanquished Judea. The Jews, however, attributed it to the divine promise that some part of the holy Temple would be left standing as a sign of God's unbroken bond with the Jewish people in spite of the challenges that might confront them.
   The Western Wall has always been venerated by the Jews, with small pockets of the devout residing nearby despite two millennia of dispersion and exile of the Jewish people from historic Palestine. It is holy to the Jewish people because it encompassed Mount Moriah, upon which Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac to demonstrate his devotion to God, as well as of the first and second Temples, in which was held the Ten Commandments, symbolizing the holy covenant that the Jewish people entered into with God at Mount Sinai following their liberation from slavery in Egypt.
   The site also has religious significance to the Muslims, who believe that the Prophet Mohammad made a spiritual journey to Jerusalem in 620 AD on a winged horse named al-Burak. While there, it is believed he tethered the horse to a wall, which some Muslims believe to be the Western Wall. Hence, the Arabic name for the wall is the al-Burak Wall. Consistent with this belief (as well as their view of Abraham as a prophet), in 687 AD, Muslims built the Dome of the Rock and the nearby Al-Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount, encompassed by the Western Wall.
   By the middle of the 19th century, Jews constituted the majority of the population in Jerusalem. Jewish interests vis-a-vis Jerusalem were initially served by Great Britain's victory over the Ottoman Empire in World War I and the subsequent imposition of the British mandate for Palestine. Nevertheless, as elsewhere in Palestine, British efforts to appease the Arabs in Jerusalem often came at the expense of the Jews. The United Nations (UN) Palestine Partition Plan (November 1947) proposed that Jerusalem be treated as a corpus separatum, that it be internationalized and maintained under UN administration. During the War of Independence (1948—49), the Jewish Quarter, including the Western Wall, was placed under siege by Jordan's Arab Legion. Despite valiant efforts to maintain supply lines, the difficult decision was taken by the Jewish Agency and the Hagana command to evacuate the quarter.
   Between 1948 and 1967, Israeli Jews were denied access to the Western Wall, in explicit violation of the 1949 Jordan-Israel armistice agreement. The Wall and other Jewish religious sites in Jordanian-occupied areas of Jerusalem were desecrated. During the Six-Day War (1967), Israeli forces defeated the Jordanian army in Jerusalem after intense fighting. On 7 June 1967, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) paratroop brigade led by Mordechai (Motta) Gur captured the Western Wall. Gur's brief report, "The Temple Mount is in our hands," and the image of Rabbi Shlomo Goren, chief rabbi of the IDF, blowing the Shofar at the Western Wall became major elements of the Israeli national psyche.
   At the Camp David II-Taba talks (2000-2001) Israel's prime minister Ehud Barak and President William J. (Bill) Clinton of the United States presented various creative ideas for "sharing" the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. Included among these was the idea of dividing sovereignty on a horizontal basis, with the Palestinians controlling institutions "on" the Temple Mount and Israeli sovereignty applied to areas "beneath" the Temple Mount, where the ancient archaeological remnants of the original Temples are believed to be buried. Such compromise positions were viewed as insufficient by the Palestinian leadership. Indeed, Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat responded by questioning any Jewish religious or historical claim to any part of Jerusalem.
   Since the outbreak of the Al-Aksa intifada, public opinion surveys have consistently indicated a readiness among the majority of Israelis to "separate" from Arab-dominated neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem. However, even the most secular of Jewish Israelis have difficulty envisioning a political settlement with the Palestinians that does not leave the Western Wall and the Temple Mount in Israel's hands.
   See also Arab-Israeli Conflict.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

Look at other dictionaries:

  • WESTERN WALL — (Heb. הַכֹּתֶל הַמַּעֲרָבִי), that section of the western supporting wall of the temple mount which has remained intact since the destruction of the Second Temple (70 C.E.). It became the most hallowed spot in Jewish religious and national… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Western Wall — n. a high wall in Jerusalem believed to be part of the western section of the wall surrounding Herod s Temple: Jews have traditionally gathered at this site for prayer …   English World dictionary

  • Western Wall — a wall in Jerusalem where Jews, on certain occasions, assemble for prayer and lamentation: traditionally believed to be the remains of the western wall of Herod s temple, destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. Also called Wailing Wall. * * * or… …   Universalium

  • Western Wall — The Western Wall ( he. הכותל המערבי, translit.: HaKotel HaMa aravi ), sometimes referred to as the Wailing Wall or simply the Kotel (lit. Wall; Ashkenazic pronunciation: Kosel), and as al Buraq Wall by Muslims, [cite web url =… …   Wikipedia

  • Western Wall — West′ern Wall′ n. jud a wall in Jerusalem where Jews, on certain occasions, assemble for prayer and lamentation: traditionally believed to be the remains of the western wall of Herod s Temple, destroyed by the Romans in a.d. 70 Also called… …   From formal English to slang

  • Western Wall — a wall in Jerusalem where Jews, on certain occasions, assemble for prayer and lamentation: traditionally believed to be the remains of the western wall of Herod s temple, destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. Also called Wailing Wall …   Useful english dictionary

  • Western Wall — remaining wall of the foundation of the ancient Jewish temple considered a holy site by Jews …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Western Wall —    See Wailing Wall …   Glossary of theological terms

  • Western Wall: The Tucson Sessions — Album par Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt Sortie 1999 Durée 52:47 Genre Country/Folk Producteur Glyn Johns …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Western Wall Tunnel — The Western Wall Tunnel (Hebrew: מנהרת הכותל, translit.: Minheret Hakotel ) is an underground tunnel exposing the Western Wall in its full length. The tunnel is adjacent to the Western Wall and is located under buildings of the Old City in… …   Wikipedia


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