The Western Wall also called the Wailing wall, is the western retaining wall of the Temple Mount, the one that was closest to the Holy of Holies when the Temple stood.
The holiest Jewish site in the world and a renowned symbol of Jerusalem’s Old City, the Western Wall is a remnant of the retaining wall built by Herod the Great in the 1st century BC, to encompass the Second Temple enclosure.
As the only remainder of their sacred, destroyed Temple, Jewish people from all over the world, throughout two thousands years of exile, have faced the direction of the Western Wall on their prayers.
It is a Jewish belief that the Holy Presence has never left the Western Wall, thus it became the most significant site of Jewish pilgrimage, where Jews came to mourn the ruin of the Temple. This is how the Wall, “Ha’kotel” in Hebrew, has gained the name – the “Wailing Wall”.
The big plaza in front of the Wall is divided into two sections – one for women and one for men. Here you can observe different kinds of Jewish activities and prayers, from orthodox Jews dressed in black reading their bible, to Israeli soldiers and groups of Jewish tourists. Leaning against the Wall and kissing the stones, the prayers’ most famous custom is to insert a note with a prayer to God between the Wall’s bricks, believing in its priority to be answered.
The Western Wall serves as a favorite location for Jewish traditional celebrations, and gets amazingly alive on Friday eve (the arrival of Sabbath) and on Jewish holidays. While visiting the Kotel you may see a Bar Mitzvah kid holding the Torah on his traditional ceremony, or an excited bride & groom being photographed before their wedding.
The Western Wall is open 24 hours, and requires a modest dress for women and a head cover for the men. Admission is free. The closest gate to enter the Old City directly to the Wall is the Dung Gate. Buses No. 1 and 2 reach inside the Old City to the area of the Wall.