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Monday, January 11, 2010


Last week I visited the Kotel tunnels with a group of my students.

I always enjoy seeing the disbelief on their faces when new visitors to the tunnels discover just what a small percentage of the total Western Wall we can see from above ground and how long the real Wall is.

In the main large hall inside the tunnels there is a model of ancient Jerusalem and the Temple Mount ,with moving sections, showing how long and deep the wall really was and how over the years the Moslems gradually built their homes against the wall to cover it, in an attempt to ‘make it disappear’.
But it’s still there – all of it.
And we can now see all 500 meters of it.

There’s a section which is very long and narrow, with strong concrete supports on both sides.

Along the stone floor , in this passageway, there are two glass sections so that visitors can see all the way down to bedrock.
And there below we can see the actual stones that the Romans pushed off the outer western all of the Temple.
When they realized they couldn’t manage to completely destroy the whole wall they just gave up.
And those stones are still lying down there just where they landed on the day the Romans hurled them down as the Temple was being destroyed.

Another part of the tunnel brings you to the closest a Jew can get to the Kodesh Kodashim, the Holy of Holies, inside the Temple . You stand directly opposite the spot where only the High Priest was allowed to enter and then only on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the year.

We stopped here for a few moments to say our own private prayers.

Here in the depth of the tunnels opposite the holiest site in the world for Jews, we were closer to the Temple than we had ever stood – closer than we are at the Kotel itself.

Archaeologists had spent 20 years digging carefully beneath the Moselm Quarter, without causing any damage to anything above, discovering the hidden treasures of a time when we were privileged to have G-d’s presence rest amongst us in His Temple.

The Hasmonean aqueduct at then end of the tunnels.

And then we exited the tunnels …....... to reality.

The exit comes out onto the Via Dolorosa in the Moslem Quarter.

Here, non- Jewish tourists of every religion were running around happily shopping, eating and sightseeing - while our group of Jewish /Israeli students huddled in a corner awaiting our armed-guard to escort us home – back to the safety of the Jewish Quarter.

How sad reality sometimes is.

My fervent hope is that some day soon P.G. we will be able to wander around our own home where are ancestors walked thousands of years ago and from where G-d's presence has never left,, without needing an armed escort.

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