NEW YORK -- Jerusalem's Western Wall Tunnels (some of which were
constructed centuries before the time of Jesus as conveyors of the
city's water supply) are among the most popular sites for tourists
visiting Israel's capital, according to Arie Sommer, the country's
consul for tourism from North America.
Most of what now are called tunnels are excavated areas around
the massive retaining walls that supported the plateau called the
Temple Mount. On the plateau stood the Temple of Jerusalem.
Construction of the retaining walls involved the use of stones
weighing as much as 100 tons, a feat that remains a mystery to
modern engineers and historians.
The temple was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70, and in
the course of the next two millennia, the ground level rose to
cover about half the height of the original retaining walls. What
remained visible in recent centuries was a small section of the
western support stones. This section was dubbed the Wailing Wall
because Jews, when they were able to obtain permission from the
prevailing rulers to visit the site, would weep and wail that this
was all that was left of their ancient glory.
With the Six Day War in 1967, Israel gained control of the Old
City, archaeologists took charge of the site and Jews restored the
wall's original name, the Western Wall. Digs revealing the true
depth of the Western Wall and excavations along its length have
been opened to visitors and dubbed the Western Wall Tunnels.
The main tunnel's visitors entrance is adjacent to the Western
Wall. The opening of an exit along the northern end of the tunnel
to enable visitors to exit into the Muslim Quarter of the Old City
near the Via Dolorosa triggered rioting last year by Palestinians,
but the attraction has remained safe and open to visitors daily
except on Saturdays and Jewish holidays.
Tours include vertical views of excavations that demonstrate the
original height of the wall; a model that shows the Temple at its
peak 2,000 years ago, and a walk through the tunnel along the
Western Wall, passing one of the 100-ton stones, to its northern
Admission costs about $3, but some time slots are reserved for
For information about tour availability, contact:
Phone: (011) 972-2 627-6777, Fax: (011) 972-2 626-4828
For information on use of the area for special occasions,
contact: Western Wall Heritage Foundation, Phone: (212) 725-0598,
Fax: (011) 972-2 626-4828