The Western Wall - First
Photo of The Western
Wall in Jerusalem
Rome destroyed the Second Temple in 70 AD, only one outer wall remained
standing. The Romans probably would have destroyed that wall as well, but it
must have seemed too insignificant to them; it was not even part of the Temple
itself, just an outer wall surrounding the Temple Mount. For the Jews, however,
this remnant of what was the most sacred building in the Jewish world quickly
became the holiest spot in Jewish life.
(WAILING) WALL "Hakotel Hama'aravi" is all that remains of the Jerusalem temple
where Jesus taught and prayed. This wall formed part of the plaza upon which
stood the remodeled temple of Herod the Great. Herod's vast remodeling project
began in 19 BC, and continued long after his death. It was completed only 7
years before the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 AD. It acquired the name
"Wailing Wall" because during the long exile of the Jewish people from the city,
they could return only once a year to mourn the destruction of the Temple. When
Israeli tanks rumbled into Jerusalem's Old City in June of 1967, it was the
first time, except for a brief period in 135 AD, that Jews controlled the site
since 70 AD.
On the image on the
right you may notice an area with a reddish rectangle box around it. That is the
area known today as the Western "Wailing" Wall. It gives an idea of how large
this wall actually was. Also in the background is Wilson's Arch which connected
the Upper and Lower Cities.
centuries Jews from throughout the world made the difficult pilgrimage to
Israel, and immediately headed for the Kotel ha-Ma'aravi (the Western Wall) to
thank God. The prayers offered at the Kotel were so heartfelt that gentiles
began calling the site the "Wailing Wall." This undignified name never won a
wide following among traditional Jews; the term "Wailing Wall" is not used in
Hebrew. The Western Wall was subjected to far worse than semantic indignities.
During the more than one thousand years Jerusalem was under Muslim rule, the
Arabs often used the Wall as a garbage dump, so as to humiliate the Jews who
Map of Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus (Click
"Whoever has not seen Jerusalem in its splendor has never seen a fine city."?
Babylonian Talmud (Succah, 51b)
Click around on the Picture
Primary Sources for the Study of First Century Jerusalem:
Josephus, The Mishnah, The New Testament,
First Century Jerusalem
The Jerusalem of Herod the Great
The Jerusalem Jesus
knew nowhere near resembled the city David conquered in the tenth century BC. At
that time, it had been a small, isolated hill fortress, valued more for its
location than its size or splendor. Yet from that time on it was known as the
City of David, and the kings of David's dynasty, especially his son Solomon, had
enlarged and beautified it.
In the sixth
century BC, the army of Nebuchadnezzar leveled Jerusalem and drove its citizens
into exile. During the long years of captivity in Babylon, the Jews in exiles'
prayers and longings focused on the distant Holy City. But the city rebuilt by
the Jews who returned a century later was far inferior to its former splendor.
It was, ironically, the hated tyrant Herod the Great who restored Jerusalem to
its former grandeur.
In the 33 years of
his reign (37-4 B.C.), Herod transformed the city as had no other ruler since
Solomon. Building palaces and citadels, a theatre and an amphitheatre, viaducts
(bridges) and public monuments. These ambitious building projects, some
completed long after his death, were part of the king's single-minded campaign
to increase his capital's importance in the eyes of the Roman Empire.
No visitor seeing
Jerusalem for the first time could fail to be impressed by its visual splendor.
The long, difficult ascent from Jericho to the Holy City ended as the traveler
rounded the Mount of Olives, and suddenly caught sight of a vista like few
others in the world. Across the Kidron Valley, set among the surrounding hills,
was Jerusalem, "the perfection of beauty," in the words of Lamentations, "the
joy of all the world."
The view from the
Mount of Olives was dominated by the gleaming, gold-embellished Temple which was
located in the most holy spot in the Jewish world and really God's world. This
was the Lord's earthly dwelling place, He mediated His throne here and raised up
a people to perform rituals and ceremonies here that would foreshadow the coming
of His Messiah kinsman redeemer who would be the lamb of God, slain for the sins
of the whole world.
The Temple stood
high above the old City of David, at the center of a gigantic white stone
To the south of the
temple was THE LOWER CITY, a group of limestone houses, yellow-brown colored
from years of sun and wind. Narrow, unpaved streets and houses that sloped
downward toward the Tyropean Valley, which ran through the center of Jerusalem.
Rising upward to
the west was THE UPPER CITY, or Zion, where the white marble villas and palaces
of the very rich stood out like patches of snow. Two large arched passageways
spanned the valley, crossing from the Upper City to the temple.
A high, thick, gray
stone wall encircled Jerusalem. It had been damaged, repaired and enlarged over
the centuries, and in Jesus' day it was about 4 miles in circumference, bringing
about 25,000 people into an area about a square mile. At intervals along the
wall were massive gateways. Just inside each gate was a customs station, where
publicans collected taxes on all goods entering or leaving the city.
Bible History Online
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