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What is the Western Wall?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht


Library » History » The Holy Temples » About | Subscribe | What is RSS?


A. The Western Wall, a.k.a. the Kotel (wall) or Wailing Wall1 , is the last remaining section of the Temple which sat atop Jerusalem's Mt. Moriah. It is the holiest active site in Judaism today, and has no connection, archaeological, spiritual or otherwise, to any other religion.

B. After the destruction of the Second Temple, G-d guaranteed the presence of the Shechinah in the Western Wall. The Wall is thus a gateway to Heaven, a place where history springs to life, a place where avowed atheists shed unexplainable tears, a place where the totality of Jewish identity finds expression, and a place where prayers are answered. Ultimately, it is a symbol of G-d, and of the Jewish People: both are eternal, and the Western Wall is the eternity of G-d and of the Jewish People written in stone.

C. Contrary to popular belief, the Western Wall is not an actual part of the Temple itself--it is a segment of a retaining wall that ran along the Temple's westernmost perimeter. Still, since this retaining wall was an integral part of the Temple compound, the ethereal sanctity of the Temple remains eternally embedded in its stones.

The Wall is thus a gateway to Heaven, a place where history springs to life, a place where avowed atheists shed unexplainable tears...
What do I do at the Western Wall?

1. Pray

An notoriously anti-religious official of the Israeli government expended much personal energy to retard the efforts of Rabbi Getz, the official rabbi of the Kotel, dismissing the Wall's holiness as bothersome, backwards fanaticism. When his daughter suddenly fell critically ill, though, his protestations dissipated like auto exhaust and he placed a frantic call for prayer to the good rabbi. Hopefully, you'll never need to pray for a critically ill loved one at the Wall, but you get the idea...

2. Celebrate

Hundreds if not thousands of Bar/Bat Mitzvahs are celebrated at the Wall each year. For the Wall--and the Temple Mount--belongs to all Jews and to no one else, and the joy of one is the joy of all.

3. Get Inspired

They destroyed the Temple. They tried to destroy The Wall. But they could not.

They destroyed our land. They tried to destroy us. But they could not.

The Wall survived.

We survived.

We were banished. Exiled. Raped. Murdered. Plundered. Massacred. In every country. In every time. But we lived on.

It was covered. Ignored. Disgraced. Attacked. Buried. By many civilizations. Many times. But The Wall lived on.

Finally, we came home.

We had not forgotten The Wall.

The Wall was waiting.

And The Wall had not forgotten us.

[Ed. note: Also read about "What is the Holy Temple?"]


  • 1. Though the term 'Wailing Wall' may be common, it is not of Jewish origin. Non-Jews seeing Jews cry there (mourning the destruction of the Holy Temple) gave the site this incorrect, and perhaps deragatory name of the 'Wailing Wall'.


Please email me when new comments are posted (you must be  logged in).



Posted by: Anonymous, Greensboro, NC on Feb 10, 2005

Wow, this is really moving. I know all the history behind the Kotel, and have been there several times, but I've never heard it described in such a beautiful way. Thank you!

Web Site

Posted by: John Ifergab, Sydney, N.S.W, Australia on Jan 07, 2006

I am so amazed about all your web site the descriptions and explainations are absoultly fantastic it is so simple to follow and easy to understand anybody can get here great imformative and constructive imformation.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you all on your profesionalisim and dedication.


Posted by: Danny Star, Walsall, England on Jan 19, 2006

this web site is the best. well done. it is so simple to find stuff


Posted by: David on Apr 27, 2006

i fell into tears after reading that last line.

amazing explanation of the kotel


Posted by: Prigat Panzee on Jul 09, 2006

"It is the holiest active site in Judaism today"

This website should probably clarify this even more - to say that the Kotel gained religious significance much later in history than the the actual temple

Even some Jews do not understand that the Temple Mount is THE holiest place in Judaism. They, as well as a surprisingly vast amount of people, think that the Kotel is the most holy.


Posted by: Esther, Orlando, Fl on Jul 23, 2006

Shalom Alecheim,

This is very moving and true. We have been mistreated and abandoned by eveyone but The One who never forgets His covenant with us and no matter who, where, and what. We will always stand firm and proud.


Posted by: Levi B. De Jong, Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands on Sep 21, 2006

You must have been there to find out that there a hardly words to find to describe your feelings when you're standing by The Wall. I stood in tears being overwelmed by nothing else but the presence of G-d. I cannot describe the sensation when my mind got filled by the complete story of our people (those parts that I know of) and a immense wide but undefined understanding.

Untill this day I'm happy that I've been able to lean my head to The Wall that day. I will carry that experience for all my life and I'm convinced that, as a proud jew among others, it made me stronger in my believes.

Go there and find out for yourselves!


Posted by: Anonymous on Dec 10, 2006

this was a really well writing and a really good fact report

i think this ROXS


rock on

GO western wall


Israel » Holy Land

Western Wall
The western wall of the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem. "The Divine Presence never left the Western Wall," and to this day, the Wall remains a holy shrine and a place for prayer.
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
Divine Presence.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.