Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Western Wall Tunnel

TODAY'S PHOTO ALBUM: Israel - Jerusalem - Day 3

Before I begin today's sojourn, here's an update on our living quarters. We were able to change apartments for one downstairs. It is smaller and the heaters work better. They especially worked better after Geoff decided to look at the filters. They were filthy! After a good cleaning, the apartment got warm and no noise. Slept good.

We have decided to go back to Tel Aviv on Saturday. I was able to get a really good deal for a ocean-view suite back at our original hotel for our last two nights. It will be a bit more relaxing - not as rushed. They weather should be good and we can watch all the 20 somethings at the beach. Nachum, who has become our guardian angel in Israel, has been in  contact with us ever since we left him at the Jordan border. He has provided us with a taxi driver to take us to Tel Aviv at a reasonable cost-especially since it is the Sabbath. We land in Boston on Monday around 7:30 pm.

Raining on and off again today and just as cold as yesterday. We bundled up and walked down to the Jaffa Gate. It's about a 10 minute walk from the apartment. One thing nice about this place, it is in a great location. Anyway, it was early and the busy shops were very quiet. We had a reservation for the Western Wall Tunnel tour for 9:30. Got there early and chatted with a guy working there who is from Framingham, MA. He had some strange ideas. Our guide Eli showed up and we headed down the stairs.
The tunnel exposes a total length of 1591 ft of the wall, revealing the methods of construction and the various activities in the vicinity of the Temple Mount. The excavations included many archaeological finds along the way, including discoveries from the Herodian period (streets, monumental masonry), sections of a reconstruction of the Western Wall dating to the Umayyad period, and various structures dating to the AyyubidMamluke and Hasmonean periods constructed to support buildings in the vicinity of the Temple Mount.
"Warren's Gate" lies about 150 feet  into the tunnel. This sealed-off entrance was for hundreds of years a small synagogue called "The Cave", where the early Muslims allowed the Jews to pray in close proximity to the ruins of the Temple. Rabbi Yehuda Getz built a synagogue just outside the gate, since today it is the closest point a Jew can pray near to the Holy of Holies, assuming it was located at the traditional site under the Dome of the Rock.
At the northern portion of the Western Wall, remains were found of a water channel that originally supplied water to the Temple Mount. The exact source of the channel is unknown, though it passes through an underground pool known as the "Struthion Pool". The water channel was dated to the Hasmonean period and was accordingly dubbed the "Hasmonean Channel".
The biggest stone in the Western Wall, often called the Western Stone, is also revealed within the tunnel, and ranks as one of the heaviest objects ever lifted by human beings without powered machinery. The stone has a length of 45 ft, height of 9.8 ft, and an estimated width of between 11 ft and 15 ft; estimates place its weight at 570 short tons (520 metric tons).
This was a very cool tour. I definitely recommend it to anyone coming to Jerusalem. We got dropped out of the tunnel at the other side of Old City in the heart of the Muslim Quarter. Yuval told us yesterday, that if we in this section to look for the Austrian Hostel and go to the roof for a panorama. Panoramas are very big in this city - everybody has a rooftop and everybody gets a couple of shekels for the admission price. Eli showed us where it was and we left the group and entered the hostel.Walked up to the rooftop and paid our 10 shekels and took in the views. It was good timing-the sun was out.

Next, I wanted to go back to the Western Wall and let Geoff have the camera to take pictures on the men's side. Mondays and Thursdays are bar mitzvah days and it is nuts there. We were so glad that Yuval took us on the tour yesterday - not only were things a lot quieter, but now we knew our way around (more or less). We also knew what we were looking at when we spotted stuff.  It was really helpful.

So Geoff went off with his kippa on his head to join the men at the Wall. I waited patiently at the perimeter. To the left of the men's side there is an inside portion of the wall where men can pray in bad weather or just to be alone. It is filled with books and Torahs. Geoff said it was a quiet a party. Lots of singing and celebrating.  Glad we got to experience seeing something like that. There are no women on that side of the wall, so they have to try peer over to see something. It is quite a scene. By the way, when it is bad weather the women have to go downstairs to a cove under the Wall to pray.

Navigating the narrow streets of the Old City, we went to the Jewish Quarter for some lunch. I was in search of a knish but have yet to find one in Israel. Guess it is more of a New York or Eastern European thing than Israeli. We settled on the Quarter Cafe with a great view of the Mt of Olives and had blintzes.

After lunch, we took a tour of the Hurva Synagogue. They also have a rooftop panorama - more photos and again the sun came out:
The synagogue was founded in the early 18th century by followers of Judah he-Hasid, but it was destroyed by Muslims a few years later in 1721. The plot lay in ruins for over 140 years and became known as the Ruin, or Hurva. In 1864, the Perushimrebuilt the synagogue, and although officially named the Beis Yaakov Synagogue, it retained its name as the Hurva. It became Jerusalem's main Ashkenazic synagogue, until it too was deliberately destroyed by the Arab Legion after the withdrawal of Israeli forces during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.
After Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967, a number of plans were submitted for the design of a new building. After years of deliberation and indecision, a commemorative arch was erected instead at the site in 1977, itself becoming a prominent landmark of the Jewish Quarter. The plan to rebuild the synagogue in its 19th-century style received approval by the Israeli Government in 2000, and the newly rebuilt synagogue was dedicated on March 15, 2010.
It was time to move from the Old City. It was getting more and more crowded.  Hike back to the Jaffa Gate. Noticed a lot of security today and a lot of random searches by the Gate. Oh, did I mention that the Jerusalem Marathon is tomorrow!! Two marathons in one trip. That's when you know you've been gone too long.

We wanted to go out to the Mehane Yahuda Market, but first we made a pit stop at the apartment for a cup of coffee and just to regroup. Headed out and decided to get on the Lightrail, which is just down the street. It is very efficient and comes quite frequently. Took us right to the market. I've lost count of how many markets we have been to but this is the last one for this trip. We picked up some homemade granola for breakfast. Within the market are several bars and cafes -- it is a very happening place. In fact one bar was getting ready to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, Israeli style. And today is also Geoff's brother, Andrew's, birthday. Mazel Tov!

We are off now to a sushi bar on St. Patrick's Day in Jerusalem!

Next Time.... The Holocaust Museum (Yad Vashem)

TODAY'S PHOTO ALBUM: Israel - Jerusalem - Day 3


  1. Hey Guys,
    The Jerusalem photo albums so far have been exceptional. No need for me to visit this place, I can cross it off my bucket list. Sue you fit right in the 6th AD Main St scene. A lot of excitement around that Wall. Are you ready for the Trump Wall?

  2. Well though I do prefer to see things in person for the full sight, sound, smell, feel of a place, Jerry is kinda right - we all feel we've partly journeyed with you!