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Memorandum on the Western Wall, The Jewish Agency for Palestine, Jerusalem, June 1930.


memorandum_on_the_western_wallMEMORANDUM ON THE WESTERN WALL








JERUSALEM Sivan 5690-June 1930.

  • A united Rabbinical Board, constituted of the Chief Rabbis of Palestine and of the Chief Rabbi of the Agudath Israel in Palestine, and acting with the authority and on behalf of the Comité Rabbinique Permanent pour sauvegarder les Droits Réligieux des Juifs aux Lieux Saints presided over by the Chief Rabbi of France, and of Unions of Rabbis in nearly every country in the world.





JUNE 1930

The main text of this Memorandum on the Western Wall, was prepared on behalf of the Jewish Agency for Palestine by CYRUS ADLER, Ph. D., D. H. L, President of the Jewish Theological Seminary at New York, President of the Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning at Philadelphia, Member of the American Philosophical Society, and Honorary Associate in Historic Archaeology of the United States National Museum, Washington.

The additions and annotations printed at the foot of the pages have been prepared, by a Jerusalem Committee representing the bodies on whose behalf this Memorandum is presented, and consisting of-

Mr. David Yellin, Lecturer at the Hebrew University, President of the Jewish Palestine Archaeological Society, and Director of the Hebrew Teachers’ College, Jerusalem;

Rabbi Samuel Klein, Ph. D., Professor at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem;

Mr. Isaac Ben Zvi, Vice-President of the Knesseth Israel, Member of the Executive of the General Federation of Jewish Labour in Palestine, and Member of the Committee of the Jewish Palestine Archaeological Society, Jerusalem;

Mr. Ben-Zion Dinaburg, President of the Jewish Historical and Ethnographical Society, Jerusalem;

Rabbi Samuel Webber, General Secretary to the Chief Rabbinate of Palestine, Jerusalem;

Rabbi Raphael Katzenelenbogen, Jerusalem; and Mr. M. Eliash, B. Litt, Advocate, President of the Palestine Jewish Bar Association, Jerusalem.


Gentlemen of the Special Commission of the Council of the League of Nations-

You have the difficult task, under the terms of Article 14 of the Mandate for Palestine, “to study, define and determine finally the rights and claims of Jews and Moslems at the Western or Wailing Wall at Jerusalem.” The question of the Western Wall is not a new one to the League of Nations; it has on former occasions been brought before the Permanent Mandates Commission and before the Council itself.

In the absence of any special Commission on the Holy Places or on this particular Holy Place, there was a consensus of opinion at the 9th session held at Geneva on June 22nd, 1926, that the question could be settled only by an agreement between the Moslems and the Jews, and the Government should do its utmost to promote such an agreement. It is with the deepest regret that we record that no such agreement has been reached or is in prospect.

We wish to premise that although this memorandum is presented on behalf of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, a body recognised in the Mandate as advisory to the Palestine Government, the subject which is brought to your attention has no political or racial connotation; and that while this Holy Place exists in Palestine, and is therefore frequented by Jews in Palestine, it is a place of pilgrimage for Jews throughout the entire world, and a matter for solicitude to many millions who never have the opportunity to go to the Holy Land, but nevertheless have a profound affection for the spot and view everything about it with deep concern. The subject is one purely of religion, of devotion and of sentiment, and there is no ulterior purpose save to conserve those ideals. We trust it is not necessary to give the assurance that the memorandum here offered has been prepared in an objective and historical manner and that the statements are culled from reliable and authentic sources.

[6] The Temple which Solomon built in Jerusalem required, as the Holy Scriptures tell us in the 6th chapter of First Kings, seven years for its construction and in that same book are described in great detail the edifice and its glory. In the 8th chapter an account is given of the dedication of this House, and in verse 11 we read- “the glory of the Lord filled the House of the Lord.”

As will be shown in the course of this document the belief that God’s presence adhered to the Temple and to the site* upon which it was built has been continuous in the minds and in the prayers and in the literature of the Jewish people throughout these three thousand years.

This Temple of Solomon did not always endure in its glory, for it is recorded in Second Kings, 25, 8, that in the 5th month, the 7th day of the month, Nebuzatadan, the Captain of the Guard, (of Nebuchadnezzar) “burnt the House of the Lord,” and at that time the building was despoiled and many precious


  • The Wailing Wall is the surviving southern portion of the Western side of the Wall that anciently surrounded the flat summit of the hill which was and is known as the Temple Mount (Har Ha-bait) from the fact that for the space of roughly a millenium (from about 962 before the Christian era to 70 of the Christian era), interrupted only by an interval of seventy years (586-516 b.c.e.), it constituted the site and precincts of the Jewish Temple.

But the holiness of the spot dates even further back than the erection of the Temple. It is associated, indeed, with the genesis of the Jewish Nation and the origins of the Jewish religion. For the “Temple Mount” is the Mount Moriah1 on which Abraham bound his son Isaac in obedience to God’s command, and which he was promised would remain for ever a place of worship and of revelations of the Divine Presence (the Shekhinah).2

1“Then Solomon began to build the House of the Lord at Jerusalem in Mount Moriah.” __.II. Chr. 3- 1. cf. Gen. 22- 2. (All quotations are from the text and margin of the English Revised Version).

2”And Abraham called the name of that place Adonai–jireh (margin- that is, The Lord will see or provide) as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be provided” (margin- or he shall be seen). “Gen. 22; 14–“From this text we learn that the Holy One, blessed is He, showed him a vision of the Temple.” Genesis Rabbah 56- 17–“Will see (or provide)- this means that Abraham saw the Temple built and standing.” Yalkut, Vayyera 216- 102; 40-17.

[7] objects taken to Babylon. This Temple was rebuilt as indicated in the very last verse of Second Chronicles, though it was done in the presence of objection and hostility.* The Temple was reconstructed by Herod. The original ground plan and interior arrangements were left, but the entire structure was greatly enlarged and it was said “that no more beautiful sight was ever seen by man.”1

Descriptions of the Temple and of its vicissitudes, are given in many records. We cite that of the eminent French architects and archaeologists, Perrot and Chipiez2—

1 “History of the Jewish People.” Margolis and Marx. Philadelphia. 1927. p. 173.

2 “History of Art in Sardinia, Judea, Syria and Asia Minor.” Georges Perrot and Charles Chipiez, Translated by I. Gonono. London. Chapman and Hall. 1890. Volume I. p. 156.


Not only that, but according to Jewish tradition the altar which Noah built was on Mount Moriah; even he had been preceded by Cain and Abel, for there stood the altar upon which they offered their oblations; and Adam, the ancestor of the human race, sacrificed to his Maker on this spot immediately after being created.3

The children of Israel were commanded upon their entry into Palestine to build the Temple in Jerusalem. This is expressly commanded in the Torah,4 though the name of the place is not specified. We find, however, that the threshing floor of Araunah upon which King David erected his altar5 was on this site which is identical6 with the site on which his son Solomon erected the Temple (ca. 962 b.c.e.).

  • Although the Temple of Solomon was destroyed and the city razed to the ground, within one generation7 the Temple

3 “It is a universally known tradition that the spot where David (II. Sam. 24-18-25; I. Chr. 21-18-28) and Solomon after him (Note 1) built the altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah is the same spot as that on which Abraham built his altar and bound his son Isaac thereon; on which Noah built an altar and sacrificed to the Lord when he came forth from the Ark; on which stood the altar whereon Cain and Abel brought their offerings to God; and on which Adam sacrificed immediately after being created. For it was from the soil of this place that he was created, as our sages have said (Gen. Rab. 14-9) ‘Man was created from the element of which he obtains forgiveness’”- Maimonides–Yad Ha-Hazakah, Hilkhot Beth Hab-Behirah, II.2.

4 Dt. 12- 5.

5 II. Sam. 24-18 H.

6 II. Chron. 3-1, and compare note 3 above.

7 Ezr. 3-3.

[8] “The area of the sanctuary may be described as a rough square or trapeze; averaging from 491 to 462 m. from east to west, and 310 to 281 m. from north to south. The broad, level and conspicuous position of the Haram, enclosed throughout by a massive wall, singles it out at a considerable distance. Despite the political and religious convulsions that have raged around and within its walls, despite the ruthless brutality and fanaticism that have forced open its gates, violated its precincts, and destroyed to the last stone the buildings that once formed its glory, the main outlines of the sanctuary are appreciably the same as when Herod, to please the Jews, widened the plateau to build a temple greater and more magnificent than the two that had preceded it. From that day the circumference of this colossal plinth has remained unchanged; none of its angles have been broken off, nor have its faces been damaged. Jews and Assyrians, Greeks and Romans, have all built upon it, and the ruins of all are even now discernible. The platform is as of yore, when Titus, from Mount Olive, viewed with mixed feelings of admiration and awe the sumptuous edifices on Moriah and the adjacent slopes, fenced round by walls which rendered the Haram a formidable fortress.”


service on Mount Moriah was renewed and within seventy years the Temple itself was rebuilt. Haggai’s prophecy that “the latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former”8 was fulfilled. Jews, whether resident in Palestine or in the Diaspora, were not only in the habit of making pilgrimages to Jerusalem for sacrifice and prayer but always turned in their prayers, no matter where they might be, “toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen and the house which I have built for thy name”9; and numbers of Gentiles, rich and poor, high and humble, used to bring their presents and sacrifices to the Temple and approach its gates to prostrate themselves before the Eternal God and to offer up their prayers to him. For “the Temple was renowned among all mortals”10 and the city of Jerusalem was celebrated for the “Jerusa-

8 Hag. 2-9.

9 I.K. 8-48; cf. Dan. 6-10.

10 E. Schuerer- Geschichte des Juedischen Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu Christi. II. 358, with references to classical authors.

[9] And another eminent Frenchman, DeSaulcy,3 gives a vivid and scholarly description with special reference to the Wall which many later works quote-

“I was aware long since, that there exists in the interior of Jerusalem, and at a particular spot of the enclosure of the Seraglio, which has taken the place of Solomon’s temple, a portion of wall which the Jews have in all times considered as a fragment of the original building. I also knew that the foot of this wall, which the Jews were not forbidden to approach, was considered by them a sort of sanctuary, where they came to pray every Friday evening; and where they were often seen lamenting, crying, and thrusting their heads into the cavities of the holy wall,–so that their tears might water it, while they pondered over the fall of Jerusalem, and the destruction of the temple. As I then supposed that this was the only vestige of the edifices of Solomon I was likely to meet, the reader will readily conceive that my first visit to the enclosure of the Haram was directed towards the Heit-el-Morharby (the western wall). Under this appellation the ancient structure is known in Jerusalem, although the German and Polish Jews who settle in the city pronounce the name Kothel-Maaravi.

3 “Narrative of a Journey round the Dead Sea and in the Bible Lands”- by F. DeSaulcy. London. Richard Bentley, 1854. pp. 78-79.


lem Temple.”11 To this day one of the Arabic names of Jerusalem is Beit-Ul-Makdes, a literal translation of the Hebrew “Beth-Hammikdash,” by which both the Solomonic Temple and the Post-Exilic one are designated throughout Hebrew literature. According to the Jewish religious outlook, this sanctity is not dependent upon the Temple building but upon the site, the Temple Mount, the sanctity of which is eternal and did not cease with the destruction of the Temple.12 A special sanctity, however, attaches to the western portion of the hill upon which the Temple used to stand,13 because according to the religious tradition

11 Reinach, Textes d’auteurs grecs et romains relatifs au Judaisme, 52.

12 Maimonides, Hilkhoth Beth Hab-Behirah. II.

13 “The Temple Mount was occupied (i.e. by the Temple) in its western part” Mishna Middoth 2-1.

[10] “On arriving in front of this venerable relic, I was struck with admiration- up to a height of more than twelve yards from the ground the original building has remained entire; regular courses of fine stones, perfectly squared, but with an even border standing out as a kind of framework enclosing the joints, rise over each other to within two or three yards from the top of the wall. A moment’s inspection is enough to ascertain without any doubt that the Jewish tradition is positively correct; a wall like this has never been constructed either by Greeks or Romans,–we have evidently here a sample of original Hebraic architecture. In the inferior courses, the stones are on the average twice as wide as they are high; now and then, however, some square blocks happen to be laid between the long ones. The four inferior courses nearest the ground are formed of square blocks, with the exception of the last but one, which is composed of blocks three times as long as they are high. As the courses successively rise above the ground, the dimensions of the blocks decrease; and, lastly, every course recedes rather more than an inch behind the surface of the one immediately below it, and these successive recessions constitute, as may be easily conceived, a most important fact in connection with the Solomonian wall. The portion of this, which is left to the Jews as a place of prayer-offering, is comprised between the enclosure of the Mehkemeh (or Turkish tribunal) and the side-wall of a


“The Divine Presence (the Shekhinah) rests in the West.”14

The belief that “the Lord hath chosen Zion, He hath desired it for His habitation”15 and that “He built His sanctuary like

14 R. Joshua b. Levi, 3rd century, said- Let us be grateful to our forefathers for revealing to us the place of prayer, by the verse “The Host of Heaven worshippeth thee” (i.e. prostrate themselves before Thee–in the West),” Nehemia 9-6 . . . R. Abbahu (end of third century) said- “The Shekhina is in the West”- (Baba Batra, page 25a).

The Tosephists to this portion of the Talmud (article beginning “Ruah Maaravith”) say- In the Temple, the Shekhinah rested on the Western side.

Maimonides in “The Guide to the Perplexed,” III. 19-48, explicitly locates the Holy of Holies in the West of the Temple. See plan Jewish Encyc. Vol. XII. pp. 94-95.

15 Ps. 132-13.

[11] private house. Its length, measured between these two limits, is nearly thirty yards. Beyond these walls, which defy escalade, the ancient construction may be seen extending still, in a straight line, about twelve yards to the right, and eleven to the left, or in the direction of the Mehkemeh. Beyond that, the modern buildings conceal the original enclosure of the temple. Again, the primitive wall is crowned towards the summit by several courses of hewn stones regularly disposed, but of small dimensions. These upper courses are of comparatively recent date, and their age cannot be referred to a period anterior to the Mohammedan conquest.”

A more highly detailed and laudatory description of this same reconstruction by Herod, from which all later authors derive, is found in the works of the Jewish historian, Josephus, Ant. Jud., Book XV, Chap. XI.

It might be said that these are prejudiced witnesses- the Jewish historian who wished to enhance the splendor of his own sacred House, or the modern French Christians, whose reading of the sacred writings had given them an equally exalted notion of the ancient fane. So we turn to pagan authors, and first to the famous Roman historian, Tacitus, who wrote his history between 104 and 109, at the very beginning of the second century of the Christian Era. We cull from his writings-


“The temple is distinguished by its wealth4 no less than by its magnificence. The fortifications of the city are its first defence; the royal palace is the second; the inclosure, where the temple stands, forms the third.

4 Tacitus Hist. V. 8-12, 16-17 condensed (Trans. Murphy).


the heights, like the earth which He hath established for ever”16 was not only a bulwark to the City during all its troubled history. It was the expression of the prophetic ideal that Nations and Kingdoms would gather together “to serve the Lord”17 upon “the Mountain of the Lord’s House” which was “exalted above the hills”18 and brought home to the people a realisation of the exalted destiny that lay in store for the Holy City. It was this faith that made Jerusalem the Eternal City.

16 ibid. 78- 69

17 ibid, 102; 23

18 Isaiah 2, 2

[12] “Pompey was the first Roman that subdued the Jews. By right of conquest he entered their temple. It is a fact well known, that he found no image, no statue, no symbolical representation of the Deity- the whole presented a naked dome; the sanctuary was unadorned and simple. By Pompey’s orders the walls of the city were levelled to the ground, but the temple was left entire.

“The temple itself was a strong fortress in the nature of a citadel. The fortifications were built with consummate skill, surpassing in art as well as labor all the rest of the works. The very porticos that surrounded it were a strong defence.

“Titus had now gained an eminence from which his warlike engines could play with advantage on the enemy. The approaches to the temple lay exposed to the valour of the legions. To save the sanctuary and even to protect the people in the exercise of a religion which with every Roman he condemned as a perverse superstition was still the wish of his heart . . .

“Titus saw that his moderation only served to confirm the hard of heart. He called a council of war. The principal officers were of the opinion that nothing less than the utter destruction of the temple would secure a lasting peace. A building which the Jews themselves had made a theatre of blood, ought not they contended, to be any longer considered as a place of worship. It was rather a citadel in which the garrison remained in force, and, since the proffered capitulation was rejected, ought to be given up to the fury of an enraged soldiery. Titus concurred with his officers in every point except the demolition of the inner part of the temple. That he still resolved to save; but as Josephus observes, a superior Council had otherwise ordained.

“On the following day the general assault began.

“They say that Titus, having called together5 his council, declared that the first point to be decided was if they ought to destroy the temple, so great a monument. Several thought it was not right to tear down a sacred edifice, notorious among the works of man; by sparing it they would leave a witness of Roman moderation, in destroying it they would mar the

5 Tacitus Fragment 1 and 2 Halm. II. Chronicles 30 according to Sulpicius Severus. Section 6. Reinach- Textes d’auteurs Grecs et Romains Relatifs au Judaisme. Paris. Ernest Leroux. 1895, pp. 324, 325.

[13] Roman name with a lasting blemish of cruelty. Others, on the contrary, and among them Titus, strongly insisted on the Temple’s destruction in order to abolish more completely the Jewish and Christian religions. These religions, although hostile to each other, sprang from the same sources, the Christians having grown out of the Jews; the root destroyed, the stalk would more easily perish.”6

And in the next century, about 230 of the Christian era Dio Cassius7 writes of the Jews and the Temple-

“They are distinguished from the rest of mankind in practically every detail of life, and especially by the fact that they do not honor any of the usual gods, but show extreme reverence for one particular divinity. They never had any statue of him even in Jerusalem itself, but believing him to be unnameable and invisible, they worship him in the most extravagant fashion on earth. They built to him a temple that was extremely large and beautiful, except in so far as it was open and roofless8 and likewise dedicated to him the day of Saturn on which, among many other most peculiar observances, they undertake no serious occupation.

9“Though a breach was made in the wall by means of engines, nevertheless, the capture of the place did not immediately follow even then. On the contrary, the defenders killed great numbers who tried to crowd through the opening, and they also set fire to some of the buildings nearby, hoping thus to check the further progress of the Romans, even should they gain possession of the wall. In this way they not only damaged the wall, but at the same time unintentionally burned down the barrier around the sacred precincts, so that entrance to the temple was now laid open to the Romans. Nevertheless, the soldiers because of their superstition did not immediately rush in; but at last, under compulsion from Titus, they made their

6 The reference to Christianity is suspect as being an interpolation, thus casting some doubt on the trustworthiness of the last passage.

7 Dio’s Roman History Translated by Ernest Cary. The Loeb Classical Library (New York- The Macmillan Co.) 1914. Volume III. Book XXXVII. 17, 2.

8 This statement would seem to rest upon a confusion of the court (or courts) with the temple itself.

9 Epitome of Book LXV.

[14] way inside. Then the Jews defended themselves much more vigorously than before, as if they had discovered a piece of rare good fortune in being able to fight near the temple and fall in its defense. The populace was stationed below in the court. The senators (i.e. the members of the Sanhedrin) on the steps, and the priests in the sanctuary itself, and though they were but a handful fighting against a far superior force, they were not conquered until part of the temple was set on fire Then they met death willingly, some throwing themselves on the swords of the Romans, some slaying one another, others taking their own lives, and still others leaping into the flames, and it seemed to everybody, and especially to them that so far from being destruction, it was victory and salvation and happiness that they perished along with the temple.”

Hadrian had decreed that the Jews might not enter Jerusalem, yet it appears that he and other Roman Emperors, Marcus Aurelius and Alexander Severus, did permit them to come once a year and enter the Temple Area to weep over the ruins.10

Such a structure and the beautiful area on which it stood, rivalling, indeed surpassing, the Acropolis at Athens, must of necessity remain imperishable in the minds of the descendants of those who had formerly worshipped within its precincts and who had defended it with so much ardour and such great sacrifice of blood.

After the destruction of the Temple by Titus there remained considerable ruins, and portions of the walls surrounding the Temple Area have stood to this day. It is one of these, the Western Wall, the Kotel Maaravi, as it is known in common speech, with which your honorable Commission is called upon to deal, as well as with the Court in front of the structure. This Wall has been variously called by other writers The Wall of Weeping, The Wall of Tears or the Wailing Wall, but the Jewish people know it as the Western Wall.

10 History of the Jews. H. Graetz. Volume II. Phila. 1893. pp. 457, 458, 482, 564.


In other places of this memorandum a more exact description of the structure and of the court before it, and many details are given, but as we take it, your body is concerned neither with architectural nor archaeological questions, but with a determination as to a holy place, let us be permitted first to undertake to establish the fact that this place has always been held holy by the Jewish people.*

Biblical references have already been cited.


  • Even after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish Temples on Mount Moriah, both the First and the Second Temple, the Children of Israel did not cease to go to Jerusalem on pilgrimages and to worship God at the site of the destroyed Temple. Thus we read in Jeremiah 41, 5, that “there came certain people from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, even fourscore men, having their beards shaven and their garments rent and having cut themselves, with oblations and incense in their hand, to bring them to the House of the Lord.”19

Similarly the Jews of Palestine and the Jews of the Diaspora used to go up to Jerusalem and the Temple site after the destruction of the Second Temple. “Rabbi Gamaliel, President of the Yeshiba (College) of Yabneh, the official head of Palestinian Jewry during the generation following the destruction of the Temple, and Rabbi Joshua and Rabbi Eleazar Ben Azaria and Rabbi Akiba once were on their way to Jerusalem; when they reached the Temple Mount and saw a fox coming out of the Holy of Holies, they began to weep.”20

This practice of visiting Jerusalem to meditate upon its ruins21 was very widespread. The story is told, for example, of a man who “made his wife take a vow not to go to Jerusalem, but he was released from the obligation of the vow and she went.”22 This took place in the second century as the Rabbi who released the man from his vow, Rabbi Yose, is mentioned by name, and he is known to have flourished in the first half of the second Century c.e. in Galilee. The same Rabbi Yose relates-

19 This pilgrimage was after the destruction of the First Temple.

20 Bavli, Makkoth 24.

21 Tosephta Nedarim 1,4 (Zuck. 276, 19)- saying . . .”on the day I saw Jerusalem in her ruins.”

22 Tosephta Nedarim 5,1 (Zuck. 280, 13).

[16] There are passages in both the Talmud of Babylon and in the Talmud of Jerusalem which especially declare that even in desolation the Temple Area was a holy place, and in a work, classic in Jewish literature, the Midrash, a Rabbi, Joseph, the son of Hanina, of the 3rd century, mentions by name this Kotel Maaravi, or Western Wall which, as he said, is never to be destroyed because the Shekhinah, that is, the Divine Presence, dwells in the West. And in another section of this same work in the commentary to the Song of Songs, it is recorded that the Lord swore that the Kotel Maaravi of the Temple shall never be destroyed. Another Rabbi, Acha, of the 4th century, in the Midrash to Exodus, declares that the Shekhinah, the Divine


“I was once walking on the road and entered one of the ruins of Jerusalem to pray . . .”23

These “ruins of Jerusalem” to which people repaired to pray, were the ruins of the Temple, as may be seen from the story of the son of Rabbi Ishmael, whom we find on his way to Jerusalem whither he was journeying for the purpose of praying among the ruins of the Temple.24

Nor was there any tendency in subsequent centuries to abandon the practice- Rabbi Hanina, Rabbi Jonathan and Rabbi Joshua Ben Levi went to Jerusalem and an old man who met them told them how their ancestors used to act in the matter of the ‘Second Tithe.”25 These Rabbis lived in the earlier part of the third century. As to the fourth century, we are told by Rabbi Pinchas that the learned men of Israel used to take off their shoes before ascending the Temple Mount26. (It was forbidden to enter the sacred precincts with shoes). The fact that not only the learned and eminent of Israel, but also men of the people used to go to visit the ruins of Jerusalem, is clear from the question asked by Simeon of Camatrea, (a city in Trans-Jordan), a plain donkey driver, of Rabbi Hiyya Bar Abba (who lived in Tiberias) with regard to the rending of the garments on the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.27

23 Bavli Berakhot P. 3a.

24 Genesis Rabba 8, 3.

25 Yerushalmi Maaser Sheni 3-6 (54a; Makkoth 196; with regard to R. Jonathan cf. Genesis Rabbah 32-10).

26 Yerush. Pesahim 7-12, p. 38b.

27 Yerushalmi Berachot 9, 3.

[17] presence, shall never depart from the Kotel Maaravi, and so the tradition and the belief runs through the course of Jewish literature to this day.

It rarely happens that when a city is destroyed and its buildings razed to the ground that it ever becomes entirely deserted of its former inhabitants. At least it is known that not all the Jews, only the principal persons, were taken to Rome, and that many dwelt in the vicinity. And so it is recorded in the excellent work of the Dominican Fathers, Vincent and Abel, that in the early days, after the destruction of the Temple, the Roman Emperors permitted the Jews to come to Jerusalem and even worship within the Temple Area, or at other times to ascend the Mount of Olives where from a distance they could see the holy site and recite their prayers and make their lamentations over the departure of its glory. As evidence for these statements we shall now proceed to cite some early Christian sources, some of which are given in that work.


11 “Jerusalem, however, though its importance was greatly reduced, was not totally deserted by the Jews. Certain indications arising in Rabbinic literature show that a little colony of them repopulated certain quarters of the city.

11 “Jerusalem,” Tome II. Jerusalem Nouvelle par les P.P. Hughes Vincent and F.M. Abel, Paris. 1922-1926. pp. 877-878.


The references given above will show with what feelings the Jews approached the site of the Temple even after its destruction.28 Their reverence found expression in the following passage in the Mishna- “No man shall behave frivolously when standing near the Eastern Gate, which looks to the Holy of Holies; he shall not enter the Temple Mount with his cane, his shoes, his purse or the dust on his feet, nor shall he use it as a short cut, still less shall he spit there.”29

It is clear from the comments on this Mishna which appear in the Talmud that even after the destruction of the Temple, in the days of Rabbi Akiba, these prohibitions were rigidly observed.

28 Yehuda on pages 5-6 quotes other passages with reference to this point.

29 Mishna Berakhoth 9, 8.

[18] “While the schools discussed the questions of the purity or impurity of the Temple Mount, of the legitimateness of sacrifice in a violated sanctuary, in case they were allowed, the Jews of Palestine did not fail to visit their unfortunate capital which remains holy, according to Rabbi Judah,12 by virtue of its former consecration. At the sight of the ruins of the sanctuary from which occasionally a jackal furtively made its escape, the pilgrims would tear their garments and having reached the foot of the gates and the crumbling walls, gave vent to their sorrow in lamentations of which Pseudo-Baruch has left us examples.

“If later, in spite of being forbidden to approach Jerusalem, the Jews succeeded in coming there at least once a year, it is natural that at this period, when access to the holy city was not forbidden, a number of them should have faithfully observed the pilgrimages fixed by Mosaic Law. The crowds Ben Zoma saw one day ‘on the heights of the Holy Mount’13 were probably an indication of this, just as were certain offerings which were brought either outside or near the ‘wall,’ probably the wall of the sanctuary. The Jews on their part obtained a tempering of their condition of banishment to such a point that they thought the moment had come when Jerusalem would be given over to them. At the Feast of Tabernacles 438, the Persian Barsauma and his disciples found thousands of Jews weeping in the deserted Temple enclosure.”14*

12 The reference is apparently to Zohar on Exodus. V, 72 – Rabbi Judah says- The Shekhina never departed from the Western Wall of the Temple, for it is written- Behold, he standeth behind our Wall (Song of Songs 2, 9.).

13 The reference is to Tosephta Berachot, VII, 2. ed. Zuckermandel, p. 14, l. 24.

14 Vincent and Abel. Op. Cit p. 909.


What is more, most of the scholars in the 3rd and 4th centuries taught that the sanctity of the place persisted even after the destruction of the Temple and that the Divine Presence still rested there and would rest there forever.

  • As to the Western Wall itself, the following Midrash,30 which is found in many sources, testifies to the eternal sanctity of the place-

30 Midrash Tehilim II, 3; the passage is repeated elsewhere in slightly different versions- Shir Hashirim Rabba, 2, 9. Yerushalmi Sukka, 4, 1.

[19] The immemorial usage of the Jews resorting, whenever possible, to the ruins of the Temple or to its neighborhood, is attested by many Christian writers. The earliest so far known is the so-called Pilgrim from Bordeaux, who visited Jerusalem in the year 333 of the Christian era and narrates that “all Jews come once a year to this place, weeping and lamenting near a stone which remained of the Holy Temple.” This once a year which he describes was undoubtedly the 9th day of Ab, the anniversary of the destruction of the Temple.


 “. . . . . . And the Lord is in His holy Temple (Psalms 11-4).”

Rabbi Samuel Ben Rabbi Nahman (early third century) said- “While the Temple stood in its place, the Divine Presence rested within its precincts, as it is written ‘and the Lord was in His Holy Temple,’ but when the Temple was destroyed the Divine Presence retired, to heaven . . .” Rabbi Eleazar (later third century) said- “The Divine Presence never left the Temple, as it is written, ‘My eyes and my heart shall be there all the time’ (Kings 1, 9, 3), and it says further- ‘I cry unto the Lord with my voice and He answereth me out of His Holy Hill, Selah’31 (Psalms 3 – 5). Thus you will see that King Cyrus said- ‘Whosoever there is among you of all His people, his God be with him and let him come up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah . . . And whosoever is left, in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the House of God which is in Jerusalem’ . . . (Ezra Chapter 1- 3-4). He said to them32- ‘Although the Temple is in ruins God has not departed therefrom.’ “Rabbi Acha (4th Century) said- “The Shekhina (Divine Presence) has never departed from the Western Wall, as it is written ‘Behold, He standeth behind our Wall’” (Song of Songs 2-9).

These passages from the Holy Scriptures and the Rabbinic comments thereon are quoted in order to show the feeling of reverence and piety which both the masses and the learned amongst the Jews have always felt towards the Temple site. In this connection the statement of Rabbi Acha concerning the Western Wall, is of especial significance.

31 Selah is here understood, to mean “for evermore.”

32 This gloss is based on the fact that when Cyrus said, “For the House of God,” the Temple was not yet rebuilt.

[20] “There are two statues of Hadrian,15 and not far from the statues there is a perforated stone to which the Jews come every year and anoint it, bewail themselves with groans, rend their garments, and so depart.”16

Next was the Church Father Gregory of Nazianzus who lived from 329 to 389 who says (in the “Orat. vi. de pace” page 91) “the scarcely to be recognized site of Jerusalem itself, which is now only so far accessible to them . . . that they may appear there on a single day in the year to bewail its desolation.”

15 “Palestine Pilgrims Text Society.” London, 1887. “The Bordeaux Pilgrim” 333 a.d., translated by Stewart p. 21-22.

16 “The Perforated stone (Lapis pertusus) is only mentioned by the Bordeaux Pilgrim; it has been suggested that this stone may have been the stone of foundation even sheteyah, and identical with the Sakhrah in the Dome of the Rock, but there is no clue to its position except that it was near the statues of Hadrian, and probably therefore within the limits of the Jewish Temple. After the suppression of the revolt, during the reign of Hadrian, the Jews were forbidden all approach to Jerusalem, and this prohibition remained in force until the reign of Constantine, for Eusebius states (Theoph) that they were not allowed to set foot in the city, or view it even from a distance. The law must have been revoked soon after Constantine’s accession as sole Emperor in 324 a.d., for the Pilgrim (333 a.d.) mentions the visit of the Jews as an annual custom. The Jews now wail every Friday at the well known Jews’ wailing place, outside the Temple enclosure.”–Stewart’s Note ad loc.


Jewish legend refers to the same strong feeling when it relates how one of the Roman Generals undertook, in the course of the Destruction of the Second Temple, to pull down the Western Gate, but it was divinely ordained that the Gate should never be destroyed, “because the Presence rests in the west.” Rabbi Berachia, a junior contemporary of Rabbi Acha, tells us in one of his stories of the difference between the pilgrims of olden days and the pilgrims of his own- “In former days the people used to come with rejoicing and jubilation, but to-day they come with feelings of sadness, wailing, and in secret, and by the grace of alien Governments.”33 But we are told by another Midrash that although the Temple was destroyed, the three pilgrimages which took place every year were not given up.34

There is no doubt that in Byzantine days, as well as during

33 Ekha Rabba I (17) 52.

34 Midrash Tehillim 42-4, Bacher (266).

[21] And third, Jerome,17 to whom the Church owes its Latin translation of the Bible, who makes a record in his commentary to Zephaniah, of which, because of its importance, we give herewith an exact translation of the Latin-

18”Until this very day faithless inhabitants . . . are forbidden to enter Jerusalem, and that they may weep over the ruins of their state that they pay a price, purchasing their tears as formerly they had purchased the blood of Christ, so that not even

17 Who was a contemporary of Rabbi Acha, to whom reference has been made on page 15.

18 Jerome commentary to Zephania I. 15-16 (Juster, Les juifs Dans L’Empire Romaine II. Paris. Guethner 1914, page 174, note 5.) (392 c.e.)


the first centuries of the Mohammedan regime in the country, Jews used to visit the Holy Places and even set up memorials on the outskirts of the Temple Area. The evidence consists of certain inscriptions which were discovered in the vicinity of the Temple Area.35

On a column of one of the gates of the Temple Area an inscription was discovered in which a man and woman from Sicilia are mentioned with the words “Hizku Behayyim,” which may be rendered freely as “May ye be preserved alive.” From this it is certain that the Jews had access to the gates of the Temple Court and were even allowed to set up inscriptions there. There was also an inscription on the second column36 of the gate. There is also an inscription on the eastern gate of the Temple Court, in the name of Abraham ben Guliana (Julian).

A few years ago a Hebrew inscription was discovered at the northern end of the Temple area, the authors of which must have been Jews from Greek-speaking countries who came to Jerusalem, as is indicated by the Greek names of the worshippers- “Thou Lord of Hosts, build this House in the lifetime of Jacob Ben Joseph, Theophylactus, and Sisinia and Anastasia. Amen, and Amen Selah.” On the upper part of the same stone there is another inscription which bears names of people whose origin is apparently from Islamic countries. It may be that a Jewish synagogue stood on this site.

35 Cf. the article on this subject of Dr. Sukenik in “Zion,” Booklet 4, 136-141.

36 Cf. Sukenik, ibid.

[22] weeping is free to them. You see on the day of the destruction of Jerusalem a sad people coming, decrepit little women, and old men encumbered with rags and years, exhibiting both in their bodies and in their dress the wrath of the Lord. A crowd of pitiable creatures assembles and under the gleaming gibbet of the Lord and his sparkling resurrection, and before a brilliant banner with a cross waving from the Mount of Olives, they weep over the ruins of the Temple; and yet they are not worthy of pity. Thus they lament on their knees with livid arms and dishevelled hair, while the guards demand a reward for permitting them to shed some more tears. And does anyone who sees this doubt about the day of tribulation . . . ? They lament over the ashes of the Sanctuary and over the destruction of the altar, and over their state formerly fortified and over the lofty heights of the Temple from which James the brother of the Lord was once precipitated.”

In the Eleventh Century an anonymous Pilgrim testifies to a continuance of the practice of the Jews coming to Jerusalem annually–no doubt on the Ninth of Ab.

“Not far from this place is the stone19 to which the Jews come every year, anoint it, lament, and so go wailing away.”

“Now, the city wall on the southern20 and eastern sides surrounds all their (the Templars’) dwellings, but on the west and the north a wall built by Solomon encloses not only their houses, but also the outer court and the Temple itself.”

In the Twelfth Century another Christian writer testifies to the existence of a wall on the west.


We now turn to Jewish sources, which are naturally more numerous. Salman ben Yeruham, a Karaite, about 940-960,* writes in his commentary to Psalm 30—

19 “Palestine Pilgrims Text Society,” Vol. VI, 1894. “Anonymous Pilgrims” 18 p. 1, early 11th century.

20 “Palestine Pilgrims Text Society,” Volume V, London, 1896. Theoderick’s Description of the Holy Places about 1166 c.e., p. 32.


  • The Arab conquest brought with it many changes in the condition of the Jews. The conquerors, having no religious traditions of their own connected with localities in Palestine, at first
[23] “And when by the mercy of the God of Israel, the Romans departed from us and the kingdom of Ishmael (the Arabs) appeared, the Jews were given permission to enter and sojourn there.* The courts of the house of God were given over to them and they prayed there for a number of years.”21

Rabbi Abraham ben Hiyya ha-Nasi,22 in his book Megillath ha-Megalleh (p. 99), has a long passage in which he indicates that during the Arab domination the Jews were permitted to enter the Temple Area and “pray therein” on holidays and festivals and read that part of the service, the Musaf, which corresponds to the sacrifices; the practice was continued up to the Crusades, which was the period at which this author was writing (about 1100).

21 Jacob Mann, “The Jews in Egypt and Palestine under the Fatimid Caliphs.” London, 1920-1922. Vol. I. page 46. Cp. also Ad. Neubauer- Beitrage und Documente zur Geschichte des Karaeertums. Leipzig, 1866.

22 “The Kotel Maaravi” by Isaac Ezekiel Yahudah, published in ‘Zion’ Volume III. Reprinted with introduction, Jerusalem, 1929, (In Hebrew). Citations are from the reprint, p. 21.


joined in the veneration of the places sacred to the Jews; later on as they developed their own religious traditions, the Jewish holy places were taken up into them.

In another source, dating probably not later than the first period of that supremacy, the Seder Eliyahu Rabba (Chapter 28, ed. Friedmann, p. 149), we are told that Rabbi Nathan entered into the Temple and found the Temple destroyed and one wall standing. He asked what that wall was, and one said to him [another text reads- and one said to him- it is the Western Wall]- I shall show thee, and took a ring and fixed it in the Wall, etc.”

  • When the Jewish community of Jerusalem was re-established, when “the Jews were granted permission to come and settle in Jerusalem,”37 they were permitted not only to pray regularly at the

37 Notices about a Jewish population in Jerusalem in the days of Omar and Moawieh are contained in the work of Theophanes (ed. De Boor I.P. 342, 22) who lived towards the end of the 9th Century. He reports conversations between the Jews of Jerusalem and Omar in connection with the building of the Mosque; also in the account of Arculf (German edition p. 30) who visited Jerusalem in the year 670.

[24] Moses Maimonides, who came to Jerusalem in 1165,23 wrote, “And on the third day of the week, the fourth day of the month of Heshvan, the 26th year of creation (i.e. 4926 = Oct. 12, 1165) we went out from Acco to go up to Jerusalem. I entered the great and holy house and prayed there on the fifth day, the sixth of Heshvan.” From which it would appear that he was actually permitted to pray on the Temple site. This great man–philosopher, legalist, physician to the Sultan Saladin, fixed the law on this subject- In the Hilkhoth Bet ha-Behira, Chap. 7, Hal. 7, he says- “Although because of our sins the Temple is desolate to-day, everyone is in duty bound to reverence it even as though it were established, for it is said- (Lev. 19,30) ‘Ye shall keep My Sabbaths, and reverence My Sanctuary.’ Just as the keeping of the Sabbath is eternal, so also the reverencing of the sanctuary is eternal. Even though it is desolate it retains its sanctity.” This may be taken as the final and authoritative statement with regard to the Jewish attitude and belief toward the sanctity of the place, since all succeeding generations have recognized the authority of Maimonides, who ranked as one of the greatest minds of the Middle Ages.

23 Sefer Haredim, Chap. Teshubah, 84. The authenticity of this passage is questioned by some scholars.


gates of the Temple Area, “to make the rounds of the Temple Gates and to pray by them with a loud voice”–as Shelomo ben Yehudah, principal of the Jerusalem Yeshiva (Talmudic College) in the first half of the 11th Century bears witness38–and to renew Divine Services at all the spots which according to tradition were endowed with special sanctity such as “the Mount of Olives where the Shekhinah once stood” as is attested by the Gaon Ben-Meir, Principal of the Jerusalem Yeshivah in the early part of the 10th century39–but also to enter the Temple Area and to build them-

38 I. Mann, “The Jews in Egypt and Palestine under the Fatimids,” Oxford, 1920, II. p. 186. Prayer at the “Temple gates” is attested even earlier. The wardens of the Jewish community of Jerusalem in the 10th Century, in an epistle in which they recount the history of the community from the time of the Arab conquest, state that the conquerors “made it a condition that they (the Jews) should sweep the Temple Area and that they might pray unmolested at the gates.” (HaMeammer, III. p. 23).

39 Sokolow’s Festschrift p. 62; HaMeammer, III. p. 11.

[25] Ben Meir,24 the Head of the Academy in Palestine in 921 c.e., in a letter to friends in Baghdad, sends greetings from the Holy Land and adds- “We constantly pray for you and for your venerable Elders of the Mount of Olives opposite the Fane of the Lord and at the gates of the Sanctuary of the Lord, where all Israel gathers and celebrates the Feast of Tabernacles.”

Rabbi Samuel ben Paltiel25 (980-1010) records in the Sefer Yuhasin that- “He gave 20,000 gold drachmas for the poor and afflicted, for scholars and preachers who teach the Torah

24 Yehudah, p. 24. cp. Sokolow Festschrift, 1904, p. 62.

25 Ad. Neubauer Vol, II “Mediaeval Jewish Chronicles,” p. 130. Oxford Clarendon Press. 1895.


selves “a house of prayer and study”40 near the Wailing Wall41 to which Jews abroad used to contribute considerable sums for attendance, oil (for lighting and ceremonial), etc.

And not only did the Jews have their own synagogue within the Temple area. They were even employed by the Moslems as

40 There are many Jewish witnesses to the existence of this synagogue. R. Abraham b. R. Hiyya Hanasi in his book Megillath Hamegalleh p. 99 (early 12th Century) writes- “The Moslem rulers dealt generously with the Jews and permitted them to enter the precincts and to build their house of prayer and study, and all the Jewish communities which lie near the place used to visit it on holidays and festivals and offer up their prayers in it as representing the ancient daily and special sacrifices that used to be offered on this spot. This was the custom throughout the period of Moslem rule.” (Dinaburg, Zion, III.).

Sahel ben Masliah (10th Century)- “And groups were placed there to pray in turn before the porch of the Temple (i.e., on the actual Temple Area) to pray to God to deliver the lost sheep and return them unto their cities” etc., (Pinsker, Lekute Kadmonioth, Appendix 30).

41 The Structure erected by the Jews near the Temple Area stood on the space in front of the Western Wall and rested against the Wall, as appears from Megillath Ahimaaz (an 11th century chronicle) which relates how the son of one R. Paltiel (end of the 10th century), sent oil to the synagogue at the Western Wall for the “inner altar,” i.e., the column before which the people stood when they prayed–which was inside the building. (Neubauer; Anecdota Oxoniensa, Mediaeval Jewish Chronicles II. p. 130.)

[26] and for teachers of children and Hazanim, and for oil for the sanctuary at the Kotel Maaravi, for the inner altar, and for synagogues of distant and nearby communities, and for the learned mourners for the Fane who grieve and mourn for Zion, and for the academy, both students and teachers, and for the scholars of Babylon, the Academy of the Princes. May his memory be for a blessing.”26

Solomon ben Judah, the Head of the Academy27 of Jerusalem (1025-1050), wrote a full account of the prayers then offered by the Jews of Jerusalem stating that they go round the Temple

26 And on this passage Yahuda (p. 30) rightfully comments- “We see that 900 years ago money was sent to buy oil for lighting lamps at the Kotel Maaravi. And by ‘the Inner Altar’ he means the Ark of the synagogue which they built near the Temple at the Kotel Maaravi in place of the synagogue from which they had been expelled. For, from this context, it seems that this synagogue was close to the Kotel Maaravi.”

27 Mann Vol. II. p. 186.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________attendants in the Haram and used to make glass and lamps for the illumination of the Haram.42 These duties were subsequently denied to them43, but there is ample evidence of the continuance of their own regular services in the Area, particularly on the open space before the Western Wall, which was known as the “Azarah” (properly, “Temple-forecourt”)44 Many Jewish pilgrims used to inscribe their names on the “gates” of the “Temple” and on the “Western Wall.”45 The Jewish quarter likewise grew up by the Western Wall, 46 the Holy Place of the Jews, just as the Moslem quarter

42 Mugir El-Din- Al-Uns Al Djalil p. 249.

43 Ahmad Al Mukaddasi ap. Yahuda p. 73.

44 Ben-Meir, referred to at the beginning of the Chapter, likewise tells of an incident that happened to his grandfather during his disputes with the Karaites in the “Azarah.” (J.Q.R., N.S., V, 750; Mann. The Jews in Egypt and Palestine, I.). That the space in front of the Western Wall was called “Azarah” is stated explicitly by Benjamin of Tudela (12th Century)- “Thither all the Jews come to pray before the Wall in the ‘Azarah’”.

45 Sukenik, “Zion” IV pp. 136-140.

46 “Between the Street of Jehoshaphat and the City Wall, on the left side, is a group of streets constituting a sort of city apart. These streets are called The Jewish Quarter.”–Wilhelmi Tyrensis Historia Hierosol. Other evidence in Roehricet- Regesta Regni Hiesol. No. 113, 421.

[27] gates (which no doubt included the Western Wall) and pray by them with a loud voice, reciting the Kadosh and Baruch (the Sanctification), and further that on the festivals they ascended the Mount of Olives.

In a letter from the Rabbis of Jerusalem, written in 1087, which includes bitter complaints of oppression, the statement is made- “Our only comfort is our going round the gates to prostrate ourselves and implore mercy,” And further they speak of worshipping on the Mount of Olives when “the House of Israel assemble in Jerusalem in the month of Tishri.”

Rabbi Petahiah of Regensburg, who left an Itinerary,28 came to Jerusalem during the Crusades* (1180-1185) and at that time found only one Jew there, Abraham, the dyer, who pointed out to him the Mount of Olives, and the gates where the Jews had previously prayed.

28 Ed. Greenhut. Jerusalem 1905, pp. 32, 33.


bordered on the enclosure of the Mosque of Omar (on its north and northwest sides) and the Christian Quarter concentrated round the Holy Places of the Christians.

  • The Crusaders had annihilated the Jewish population, and Jerusalem, which passed through all the vicissitudes of war, was emptied of its Jews. At a later period, when more tolerance appeared and when, instead of the annihilation of unbelievers, the imposition of taxes was introduced, a possibility arose of re-establishing the Jewish communities. Benjamin of Tudela (1167) describes already the conditions of tens of Jewish communities, and his statistical data show at least 1,000 Jewish families existing in Palestine under the Crusaders. He mentions the Jewish prayers before the Western Wall, which he also calls “The Gates of Mercy” in view of its being a place of constant prayer.

We see, therefore, that in spite of the general intolerant attitude of the Crusaders towards the Jews, the Western Wall nevertheless remained a place of constant prayer for the Jews, and, to quote Benjamin again, “in front of that place, the Kotel Maaravi, which is one of the walls which surrounded the sanctuary . . . it is there that all the Jews came to pray in front of the Wall, in the open space (Azarah).” Benjamin adds, “All the Jews write their names on the Kotel, and everyone of them does so.”47

47 The writing of names on the wall is apparently a very ancient custom and was continued throughout the centuries. The writing

[28] Benjamin of Tudela (c. 1167), the greatest of mediaeval Jewish travellers, leaves this important record-

“Jerusalem has four gates, the gate of Abraham, the gate of David, the gate of Zion, and the gate of Gushpat, which is the gate of Jehoshaphat, facing our ancient Temple, now called Templum Domini. Upon the site of the sanctuary Omar ben al Khattab erected an edifice with a very large and magnificent cupola, into which the Gentiles do not bring any image or effigy, but they merely come there to pray. In front of this place is the Western Wall, which is one of the walls of the Holy of Holies. This is called the Gate of Mercy, and hither come all the Jews to pray before the wall, in the open Court.”29

Rabbi Samuel ben Samson, together with Rabbi Jonathan ha-Cohen of Lunel, arrived in Jerusalem in the year 1210.* Rabbi

29 “The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela,” Nathan Marcus Adler, pp. 22, 23. London, 1907. He uses the word “Azarah.”


  • The reconquest of Palestine by the Moslems marked a new era for the Jewish population. Saladin published a special appeal (1190) inviting the Jews to come to Palestine.48 There started a considerable influx of Jews from Western countries, from France and England, as well as from Egypt. The right of Jews to settle in Jerusalem and to live there was recognised again, and a Jewish community was formed which continued its existence until the Mongol invasion, which wrought havoc throughout the country (Hulagu-Khan 1260).

was done not only by means of paint and ink, but also by incision on the face of the stones themselves, and there never was any objection, protest, or difficulty met in the maintenance of this custom. Another custom no less ancient is that of fixing nails between the crevices of the stones or the layers of the stones and in the natural pores of the stones themselves. This custom is still observed by Sephardic Jews whenever they leave the Holy Land. The fact that the Jews have during the centuries inscribed and incised their names on the stones and fixed these nails between the stones and in the stones without any interference is further proof that the Moslem authorities and inhabitants recognised the right of the Jews not only to visit the Western Wall and perform their prayers and devotions there, but also to show otherwise the sacred veneration in which they hold it.

48 Rabbi Judah Alcharizi in his Tachkemoni and other sources.

[29] Samuel thus describes their entry in his Itinerary-30 “We arrived in Jerusalem on the west side of the city; we came there and rent our garments, as we are commanded to do. Then our feelings were aroused and we wept bitterly, I and the great Cohen of Lunel. We entered by the gate until we faced the Tower of David, from which we proceeded to prostrate ourselves at the open space before the Western Wall.31 We fell upon our faces in front of the gate which is opposite it on the outside, on the side of the Spring of Etam, which was the place of immersion for the priests, and there is a gate opposite it in the Western Wall. And of the foundations of the Temple there is like a large hall which was of the foundation of the Temple, and there the priests passed through a tunnel to the Spring of Etam.”

Rabbi Jacob ben Nethanel ha-Kohen came to Jerusalem during the Crusades; he writes as follows-32 “And in Jerusalem is the Tower of David; and the Temple and the Azarah are new, but the Kotel-Maaravi and the store-room are of the structure of King Solomon; and the Gates of Mercy, a well in which priests used to bathe, and the Tomb of Absalom.”

30 “Itíneraires de la Terre Saínte.” Traduits de l’Hebreu par E. Carmoly, Bruxelles, 1847. p. 127.

31 Called by him “Azarah,” just as it is called by Benjamin of Tudela. Also by Ben Meir (921 C.E.) who reports a dispute with the Kara’ites at the same place (J. Q. R., NS., V., p. 750).

32 “Itinerary of R. Nethanel ha-Kohen, ‘Jerusalem,’ VII p. 90, 91. [Hebrew Year Book Ed. by A. M. Luncz.]


The recovery of the Jewish community of Jerusalem from the invasion of the Mongols, who destroyed cities and slaughtered and carried away Moslems, Christians, and Jews alike, is due to the energy of Rabbi Moses Gerondi (Nachmanides) (1267). Since then the community has continued its uninterrupted existence until this very day. From the records of Nachmanides (the letter to his son at the end of “Shaar Hagmul”), it appears that the Jews reestablished their settlement in their old quarter, which is still the centre of the Jewish population in the Old City. The communal life was reestablished, a synagogue was built, and traditional prayers at the Holy Places were resumed.

In his commentary to the Song of Songs, (on v. 2, 8) Nachmanides speaks of the sanctity of the Western Wall, saying that

[30] Rabbi Menahem ben Perez (1215), who was for eight years the Hazan in Hebron, came to Jerusalem, where, he says,33 “The Kotel Maaravi is still in existence.”

34 The Kabbalist R. Isaac ben Joseph Hilu (1333) in his book “Shvilei Jerusalem,” records how after the Christians left and the Moslems returned to Jerusalem they found the Temple place hidden by a dunghill; “There was an old man who told the king that ‘if he would swear to spare the Kotel Maaravi, I would show him the place of the ruins of the Temple.’ The King immediately swore that he would do as requested. The old man pointed out to him the ruins of the House under a dunghill. The King removed it, himself clearing the ruins till he thoroughly purified that place. He then rebuilt everything anew, except the Kotel Maaravi. And he built there a very glorious temple which he dedicated to his God. This is the Kotel Maaravi which is over against the Mosque of Omar ben Al-Khattab, called ‘Gate of Mercy.’ The Jews come hither to pray as the Traveller [i.e. Benjamin of Tudela] had already remarked. It is to-day one of the seven noteworthy things in the holy city.’

33 ‘Ha-Me’amer’ III pp. 36-46.

34 Carmoly. “Itineraires de la Terre Sainte” p. 237.


“the Holy One, blessed be He, did not rest until he had established the Divine Presence of the Temple on the Western Wall,” and after quo

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