February 14, 2008
Western Wall (Kotel) Tunnel Tours
Basically, this is a tour of the western wall of the outside of the Jewish Temple or בית המקדש. Much of the protecting walls were covered up by thousands of years of dirt and building homes and stuff on top of them. When Israel became a state, Israel began to dig up part of the western wall, which is what we call the Kotel. The Kotel is just a small piece of the whole Western Wall - but much of it is covered up by homes. So they made these tunnels to let us walk, safely, along the wall, under the streets and homes that are above it.
What is so important about this wall? Well, it is the closest point to where we can go, to the Temple Mount (Har HaBayit). In fact, when we walked through the tunnel, there was one point where you can stand directly in front (picture) - a few hundred feet (maybe less, not sure) from the center of that point. We saw a Chosen (about to be married man) come to say a prayer there before his big day. It is the closest point, by most authorities, a religious Jew can get to the point of the Kadosh Hakadashim (Holy of Holies) - so it is spiritually important and significant.
Also, one of the largest stones in the world is part of that wall. It is a length of 13.6 meters and an estimated width of between 3.5 and 4.5 meters; estimates place its weight at 570 tons.
The thousands and thousands of history in those walls and tunnels is just amazing. I am glad I went on this tour - I learned a lot. If you ever do go to Israel, I highly recommend it - amazing amount of history there. You can also learn a lot about it at Wikipedia...
The cool and action packed part was when we left the tunnel. We leave through the Muslim Quarter and we are escorted by two Israeli soldiers that are armed with automatic rifles. The tour guide told us it is just for show, but seriously, why would you do that for show. :) Anyway, it was exciting to say the least.
Next comes Yad Vashem...