Thursday, 26 November 2009

Western Wall Tunnels

Sun 1 Nov
Deep under the Old City a 500 metre-long tunnel runs alongside the original foundations of the Western Wall, so its path, and much of the stonework, dates back 2000 years or more.

The slab in the picture is said to be one of the biggest bricks in the world, and you wonder where they got it from, how they got it here, how they cut it to size, and how they got it into place. The museum has a natty little film answering these questions, complete with cartoon workers pulleying pulleys, levering levers, and rolling logs.

At various points along the route various civilisations have built cisterns for the city's water supply, some of which are still there and in use. You can also see the different courses of stone set down during reconstructions of the Wall in different historical periods. At one point you stand on paving stones of a street laid in King Herod's time (over 2000 years ago); part of the passage follows the route of an aqueduct dating from the Hasmonean period around 100BC.

Part-way along you step through an arch in the stone into a small space provided with a couple of chairs. As we passed by there were a couple of women sitting deep in prayer, and another waiting her turn. When we came by on our way back 20 minutes later one of them was still there. This spot functions as a tiny synagogue, and is physically the closest any observant Jew can get to the Holy of Holies, at the heart of the ancient Temple, which lies on the other side of the Wall, within the Dome of the Rock mosque some 60 (?) metres away.

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