The Western Wall Plaza is a large public square situated adjacent to the Western Wall in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. It was formed in 1967 as a result of the razing of the Mughrabi Quarter neighborhood at the very end of the Six-Day War.
The Western Wall Plaza abuts the Western Wall, part of the ancient retaining wall erected by Herod the Great to surround and increase the surface area of the Temple Mount. Apart from the Western Wall to the east, the plaza is bordered on its north side by the two Western Wall Foundation facilities (the Chain of Generations Center and the entrance to the Western Wall Tunnels), Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh, and a passage to the Muslim Quarter to the Valley Street (HaGay or al-Wad); by Aish HaTorah, Porat Yosef Yeshiva and the Jewish Quarter via the Yehuda HaLevi Stairs on its west side; and by the Jerusalem Archaeological Park and the exits towards Dung Gate on its south.
Moroccan Quarter (12th-20th century)
The site was the location of the Moroccan Quarter, a neighbourhood founded by El Afdal, son of Saladin, in 1193. Access to the Western Wall was limited to a narrow street through the neighbourhood, which sometimes caused friction with the local Arab population. In 1887, Baron Rothschild tried unsuccessfully to purchase the neighborhood and resettle its inhabitants in better accommodation elsewhere.
On June 10, three days after the capture of the Old City by the Israel Defence Forces and still during the Six-Day War of 1967, one hour before midnight, civil contractors began work by demolishing a toilet built up against the Western Wall, which had provoked the ire of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion during his visit a day earlier. A request had gone out to the inhabitants of the Moroccan Quarter to evacuate all 135 houses, which along with the Sheikh Eid Mosque were bulldozed to make way for the plaza. This was done ahead of the upcoming holiday of Shavuot, during which it was anticipated that many thousand Israelis would seek to visit the site. It was also seen as an opportunity that would not return, given the chaotic situation during the closing days of the war and its immediate aftermath. The only surviving relic from the neighborhood was the so-called Mughrabi Bridge, a ramp which overlooked the plaza and terminated at the Mughrabi Gate, allowing for access to the Temple Mount above.
First Intifada incident (1990)
On 8 October 1990, during the First Intifada, Jewish worshipers in the plaza were pelted with stones hurled by Palestinians attending prayers in the al-Aqsa Mosque, the plaza known to Jews as the Temple Mount.
Archaeological excavations took place at the northwestern edge of the Western Wall Plaza, c. 100 meters west of the Temple Mount.
Late First Temple period
The archaeologists made numerous Late First Temple period findings characteristic of the Kingdom of Judah in the time between the end of the 8th century BCE and the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE. These included building remains, some preserved to a height of more than 2 meters. A large quantity of pottery was discovered, including numerous fertility and animal figurines and jar handles with the stamped inscription "LMLK". Another inscription in ancient Hebrew script reads "[belonging] to the king of Hebron".
A First Temple period seal made of semi-precious stone containing ancient Hebrew writing which includes the name "Netanyahu ben Yaush" was found as well. Netanyahu is a name mentioned several times in the Book of Jeremiah while the name Yaush appears in the Lachish letters. However, the combination of names was unknown to scholars.
Late Roman period
During the same excavations, part of the Roman 2nd-century CE Eastern Cardo was uncovered, as well as a street segment dated around 130 CE and leading westwards towards the Temple Mount.
North side (Beit Strauss)
In October 2020, archaeologists led by Dr. Barak Monnickendam-Givon from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced the discovery of a 2,700-year-old two-shekel limestone weight. That places it in the First Temple period, during the Iron Age. According to the IAA, there were two parallel Egyptian symbols resembling a Greek gamma on the surface of the smooth round stone weighing precisely 23 grams (one shekel weighed 11.5 gr) and confirming the development of trade and commerce in ancient Jerusalem.
The plaza is divided by a low wall of Jerusalem stone into two sections. A smaller section immediately adjacent to the Western Wall, and further divided into two sections by a mechitza for opposite genders, serves as an open-air synagogue. It has since become a popular place to hold bar mitzva ceremonies.
The larger section immediately west and south of the smaller one acts as a crowd overflow area for the first, but by itself serving as the location for induction ceremonies of IDF soldiers.
While the plaza is open to all, the Ministry of Religious Services employs modesty guards to ensure visitors dress appropriately to the holiness of the site and as a courtesy to worshipers.[dubious ]
In August 1967, the architect Yosef Shenberger was called upon to present a design for the plaza, but his idea quickly became the first of many to be torpedoed by planning boards.
In 1972, Moshe Safdie was hired to submit a proposal for the plaza. He followed Aronson's plan somewhat, with a series of terraced plazas descending to the Herodian era street level adjacent to the Western Wall, but his proposal was scrapped as well.
In 1976, Irwin Shimron headed the Shimron Committee, which was set up to explore all the options for the development of the plaza. The committee recommended implementing Safdie's proposal, with nothing coming of it to date.
- Ricca, Simone "Heritage, Nationalism and the Shifting Symbolism of the Wailing Wall", Open Edition Journals
- Abowd, Thomas "The Moroccan Quarter: A History of the Present", Journal of Palestine studies
- Hasson, Nir (3 June 2017). "How a Small Group of Israelis Made the Western Wall Jewish Again". Haaretz. Retrieved 26 July 2022.
- Anthony Lewis (12 October 1990). "ABROAD AT HOME; The Israeli Tragedy". nytimes.com/opinion. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
- Israel Antiquities Authority, Building remains from First Temple period exposed west of Temple Mount, 13 March 2008, accessed 11 February 2019
- "Building Remains From The Time Of The First Temple Were Exposed West Of The Temple Mount". Israel Antiquities Authority. 13 March 2008. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
a personal Hebrew seal made of a semi-precious stone that was apparently inlaid in a ring. The scarab-like seal is elliptical and measures c. 1.1 cm (0.4 in) x 1.4 cm (0.6 in). The surface of the seal is divided into three strips separated by a double line: in the upper strip is a chain decoration in which there are four pomegranates and in the two bottom strips is the name of the owner of the seal, engraved in ancient Hebrew script. It reads: לנתניהו בן יאש ([belonging] to Netanyahu ben Yaush). The two names are known in the treasury of biblical names: the name נתניהו (Netanyahu) is mentioned a number of times in the Bible (in the Book of Jeremiah and in Chronicles) and the name יאש (Yaush) appears in the Lachish letters. The name Yaush, like the name יאשיהו (Yoshiyahu) is, in the opinion of Professor Shmuel Ahituv, derived from the root או"ש which means "he gave a present" (based on Arabic and Ugaritic). It is customary to assume that the owners of personal seals were people that held senior governmental positions. It should nevertheless be emphasized that this combination of names – נתניהו בן יאוש (Netanyahu ben Yaush) – was unknown until now.
- Amanda Borschel-Dan. "Weight, weight: Western wall dig uncovers flubbed 2,700-year-old 2-shekel stone". www.timesofisrael.com. Retrieved 29 October 2020.
- "Israeli Archaeologists Find 2,700-Year-Old Limestone Weight | Archaeology | Sci-News.com". Breaking Science News | Sci-News.com. 28 October 2020. Retrieved 29 October 2020.
- Koopmans, Ofira (3 May 2016) "Fifty Holocaust Survivors Celebrate Bar and Bat Mitzvah Ceremonies at Western Wall", Haaretz
- MacFarquhar, Larissa (20 January 2003) "Truth in Architecture", New Yorker