The Wailing Wall

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Picture of Western Wailing Wall in Jerusalem
The Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem

What is known as the Western or Wailing Wall is located within the part of Jerusalem known as the 'old city.' Some believe it is the last remaining remnant of Herod's Temple (also known as the second temple).

Although an exposed section of the Wailing Wall (seen in the above picture as a large plaza where people are praying) is 187 feet wide (57 meters), the total above ground width of the wall is 1,600 feet (about 488 meters). Much of the western or wailing wall is hidden behind structures built along its length. The height of the exposed stone in the picture is approximately 62 feet (roughly 19 meters).

Work on Jerusalem's first temple was started by King Solomon of Israel around 966 - 965 B.C. God's house of prayer for all people was completed in 958. Sadly, it was totally destroyed by the Babylonians 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 (and the believed Wailing Wall) in 20 B.C.

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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.

The Wailing Wall and the surrounding area, known as the Temple Mount, are considered Judaism's most sacred site. Many Jews turn toward this location when they pray and have offered prayers in the area since at least the 4th century A.D.

Starting around the mid-19th century, several attempts by Jews have been made to purchase rights to the structure known as the wailing wall and the land that immediately surrounds it. All these attempts, however, failed. The general area of the Temple Mount came under the control of Jordan after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Under the Jordanians, Jews were barred from the western wall area until Israel captured the Old City in 1967.

Some Jews go to the Wailing Wall every Friday afternoon to bewail the destruction of Jerusalem's Temple and bemoan their own desolate condition (see Psalm 79). Some who visit this location kiss one of its stones and water the edifice with their tears.

Portions of the Old Testament are often read at the Wailing Wall, especially excerpts from Jeremiah's book of Lamentations and select passages from the Psalms. It is from all these behaviors displayed before the wall's massive stone blocks that this structure gets its name.

Additional Study Materials
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Palestine under the Maccabees Map
What does inside of temple look like?
Attacks on Jerusalem timeline

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