Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Kotel Tunnels- and small history lesson :)

Sorry, sorry.  I'm alive!  I knew I would be busy, but I cannot believe how unbelievably busy things have been!  It seems I have not had a minute of down time, or more than 5 hours of sleep a night since I left Michigan.  Ah well, I will try to catch up about some of the things I've been doing.  Last Tuesday, the evening of our first day of classes, we went on a group tour of the Kotel Tunnels.  This was absolutely incredible and will be difficult to explain.

For a brief history of the Temple Mount area, which I will hopefully get right, this is one of the most important religious sites for Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  This is the location where God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, and where King Solomon built the first temple in 957 BC.  Here in the first temple was the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant (containing the Ten Commandments) was kept.  Solomon's temple was destroyed by the Babylonians and the Ark was lost.  A second temple was built, and renovated by King Herod around 19 BC.  Herod expanded the Temple Mount by building retaining walls on the hills.

The second temple was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans.  The reason Jews cannot go on the Temple Mount itself is so that they don't unintentionally walk on the site of the Holy of Holies since we can't know exactly where it stood.  Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock stand on the site today.  The Western Wall, or Kotel, is an exposed section of what remains from the ancient retaining walls, and is sacred because of its vicinity to the site of the Holy of Holies.

The next part is complex and I was too confused to understand the details, but basically over all these centuries and periods of different rulers, arches and streets and neighborhoods were built on top of each other until the city was closer to ground level with the Temple Mount.  The Kotel Tunnels are an excavation of this area to expose the entire length of the Western Wall.  It is pretty amazing to go down there and see and touch all these archaeological finds.  Also, inside the tunnel is the portion of the Wall that is directly across from the site of the Holy of Holies, the closest physical point, so it is regarded as the holiest place on earth.  So many people make pilgrimages here and pray and sob and tuck notes into the cracks of the rocks.  Really amazing to be there.

Demonstration showing how the city was built up to the Temple Mount

Diagram showing the bedrock (white) and the tunnels (orange) under the Temple Mount.  The white lines on the far right make the Western Wall.

Inside the tunnels...

The Western Stone (bottom of photo)- one of the largest building blocks in the world, weighing 570 tons.  It is about 44x10x11 feet.  (So how did they get it up there????)

Prayers tucked between the stones

Here it is... what many believe to be the holiest place on earth.

Tunnels, beneath the streets of the Old City

Western Wall at night

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