Thousands of Jews gathered at the Western Wall (Kotel ) Plaza in Jerusalem Tuesday to mark Tisha B’Av – the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av – on which the Second Jewish Temple was destroyed, 1944 years ago.
The First Temple was also destroyed on the same day of the year by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, in the Hebrew year 3,338, or 2,436 years ago.
Police said that there are less people at the Kotel than the number that usually gathers on Tisha B’Av, and attribute this to the two terror attacks in Jerusalem Monday. There is a very high police presence in the city, however.
The Temple Mount itself is open to Jews for the first time in three years, but there has been rioting there.
Police disgracefully closed off the Kotel Katan, or Small Western Wall, to Jews, after Arabs hurled rocks. This, despite the fact that the location was cleaned up especially for Tisha B’Av. The Kotel Katan is an extension of the Western Wall that accessible through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.
The Religious Affairs Ministry announced this week that it was taking responsibility for the Kotel Katan, however, and would be responsible for its upkeep. The decision was made on Monday, the eve of the Fast of the 9th of Av.
The Western Wall is a supporting wall of the Temple Mount complex, on which the two Holy Temples were built approximately 2,850 and 2,350 years ago, respectively. Though it is technically outside the Temple area, it has special sanctity; the rabbinic Sages taught that the Divine Presence would never leave the Western Wall.
Of the nearly 500 meters of length of the Western Wall, roughly 200 meters of the southern end [to the right of the worshipers] are easily accessible today – but the remainder is just as sacred. Another 100 meters or so are included in a tour of the Western Wall Tunnels. Above these tunnels, near the Iron Gate entrance to the Temple Mount and on Temple Mount floor level, is an open area facing a short segment of the Wall. This is the area known as the Kotel HaKatan.
Though it is off the beaten track, the Kotel HaKatan is actually slightly more holy than the familiar Western Wall plaza, because of its closer proximity to the Holy of Holies of the ancient Temples. However, one would not know this upon visiting it – for it is hard to get to, has no trappings of a holy site, and is not even protected 24 hours a day.