THE WESTERN WALL TUNNELS

"Our feet stood poised at your gates O Jerusalem!" (Psalms 122:2)

From the time of the Temple's destruction we have been unable to ascend the Temple Mount to stand in the presence of the Shechina.

Foreign domination and the constraints of Halacha which prevented access to the Temple Mount shifted the focus and longings of the Jewish people for their heritage to the Western Wall.

For hundreds of years the indignity of destruction concealed the major part of the Western Wall. The few stones visible told a tale of devastation.

In 1527 (1967), soon after the liberation of the Old City of Jerusalem, the Ministry of Religious Affairs undertook the task of clearing the Western Wall Plaza area. The Ministry also initiated a project to expose the full extent of the hitherto concealed Wall - a project with a goal beyond mere scientific and archaeological curiosity. The worker's pickaxe stripped away the centuries to make this ancient heritage visible and tangible to the Jewish People. Many tons of dirt and refuse were laboriously removed by hand to expose magnificent underground structures. A continuous historical chain wrought in stone, stretching from the Hasmonean era until our time, was discovered.

These excavations revealed the entire length of the Western Wall in all its glory - almost 448 meters long, with one stone reaching a weight of almost 570 tons. About 2000 square meters of rooms and public halls were discovered, as well as a section of a Second Temple road, a Hasmonean water tunnel, a pool, and many other finds. These finds will one day provide the setting for a learning center dedicated to fostering an awareness of Jewish History and an appreciation of the ideals nurtured in Jerusalem and the Temple.

Here is a realm rich in roots - it was on this mountain that Abraham was warned not to "lift your hand against the youth", Isaac. Here one can imagine the songs and music of the Levites. The stones evoke memories of King David and Solomon, of Ezra and Nehemiah, of the Maccabees and the Sages. Kings and prophets walked along these paths.

Here at the foot of the Western Wall, more than any other place on earth, the memories of Jewish past mingle with the hopes of Jewish future.

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