The Wailing Wall is located in the Old City of Jerusalem. Some believe it is the last remaining remnant of Herod's Temple. Although the exposed section of the wall (the side that faces a large plaza dedicated to prayer) is 187 feet wide, the total above ground width of the wall is 1,600 feet. Much of it is hidden behind structures built along its length. The height of the exposed stone is approximately 62 feet. It is considered one of the most sacred sites in Judaism.
The wall has been a site for Jewish prayers since at least the 4th century A.D. Unsuccessful attempts to purchase rights to it and the land in the immediate area were made by Jews starting around the mid-19th century. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War the wall came under Jordanian control. Jews were barred from it until Israel captured the Old City in 1967.
Jerusalem's first temple, built by King Solomon, was destroyed in 586 B.C. Although the foundations of a second temple (in the same location as the first) were laid about 535 B.C., by the time of King Herod the building had suffered significant decay and assaults from armies. Herod began rebuilding Jerusalem's temple (known as the second or Herod's temple) in 20 B.C. Work on the temple was not fully completed until 65 A.D. Roman legions took the city of Jerusalem by storm and set fire to the temple in several places in 70 A.D.
Some Jews go to the Western Wall every Friday afternoon to mourn the destruction of Jerusalem's Temple and bewail their desolate condition (see Psalm 79), lending to the wall's other name.