More than 8 million people visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem every year. Almost everyone who comes to Israel makes a pilgrimage to the Wall that is a remnant of the perimeter wall of the Second Temple built by King Herod. The rest of the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, but the retaining wall remained standing and became a focal point of devotion.
Tradition has it that because of the series of biblical events that took place on the mount, identified as Mount Moriah (the story of Abraham ready to sacrifice his son Isaac; Jacob’s dream and the fact that two temples stood there) that the Divine Presence never left the place.
Visitors today come to take in the special atmosphere and place a note in the crevices in the Wall–but with 8 million people trying to do the same thing every year, practical matters have become a little difficult. The Wall is on the eastern side of the Old City and almost all tourists are coming from the western side. The Old City is ancient and hilly with lots of steps, so access is a major issue. At the moment it’s hard to take in all the archeological excavations too.
There’s been talk of an elevator from the Jewish Quarter, but today’s Cabinet decision to allocate around $23 million over a 5-year period for various improvements is at least a step in the right direction to making one of Israel’s most important sites accessible to all.