The Western Wall, Wailing Wall or Kotel (Hebrew: הַכֹּתֶל הַמַּעֲרָבִי, translit.:
HaKotel HaMa'aravi; Ashkenazic pronunciation: Kosel; is located in the Old City of
Jerusalem at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount. It is a remnant of
the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple's courtyard, and is arguably the
most sacred site recognized by the Jewish faith outside of the Temple Mount itself.
Just over half the wall, including its 17 courses located below street level, dates
from the end of the Second Temple period, commonly believed to have been constructed
around 19 BCE by Herod the Great, but recent excavations indicate that the works
were not finished during Herod's lifetime.
The remaining layers were added from the 7th century onwards. The Western Wall refers
not only to the exposed section facing a large plaza in the Jewish Quarter, but also
to the sections concealed behind structures running along the whole length of the
Temple Mount, such as the Little Western Wall–a 25 ft (8 m) section in the Muslim
It has been a site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage for centuries; the earliest source
mentioning Jewish attachment to the site dates back to the 4th century. From the
mid-19th century onwards, attempts to purchase rights to the wall and its immediate
area were made by various Jews, but none were successful.
With the rise of the Zionist movement in the early 20th century, the wall became
a source of friction between the Jewish community and the Muslim religious leadership,
who were worried that the wall was being used to further Jewish nationalistic claims
to the Temple Mount and Jerusalem. Outbreaks of violence at the foot of the wall
became commonplace and an international commission was convened in 1930 to determine
the rights and claims of Muslims and Jews in connection with the wall. After the
1948 Arab-Israeli War the wall came under Jordanian control and Jews were barred
from the site for 19 years until Israel captured the Old City in 1967.