western wall

This is one of the most recognizable sets of ruins in the world, and the center of the world of Judaism: the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, originally was part of the boundary of the courtyard of the Second Temple, the holy site for Jews that was destroyed in 70 C.E. by the Romans. Historians believe the construction of the wall began about 19 B.C.E. by Herod the Great. Recent archeology has indicated that the wall wasn’t finished in Herod’s time, but certainly a large portion of it was built then.

Jews from all over the world come to Jerusalem to pray. The destruction of the Second Temple is arguably the central feature of Jewish history though it is possible that in the future the Shoah (Holocaust) may eclipse it. It’s all that remains of the Second Temple, which is why it’s so holy. The real estate that the Western Wall sits on is the most contentious in the world–two other religions, Islam and Christianity, have their own holiest sites very near this spot. Indeed Jews have been forbidden to visit the Western Wall for various portions of their history, as Jerusalem or parts of it have been under the control of other powers; even after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 it was off-limits until Israeli troops captured it during the Six-Day War in June 1967.

If you look at the full panorama on 360cities.net you can see the ancient terrace from which this picture was taken and the archaeological restoration going on beneath it. Millions of Jews (and a good many non-Jews) visit it every year. It is likely to remain one of the holiest–and most contentious–spots on planet Earth for a long time to come.

This photo was taken by Tamir Orbaum in October 2012.