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February 24, 2022

Western Wall Tunnels

The Western Wall, the Kotel

Almost every first-time visitor to Jerusalem visits the Western Wall – the piece of the retaining wall of the magnificent Second Jewish Temple built more than 2,000 years ago. But the section of the Western Wall where we pray today is only a small visible segment (about 200 feet, 60 meters) of the retaining wall that stretches north from the Western Wall Plaza for another 1,600 feet (488 m). The rows of large stones that make up the Wall we are familiar with today sit on top of another 14 layers of stones below ground level.

Through the Western Wall Tunnels

Through the Tunnels (Photo: Berthold Werner, Public Domain)

Western Wall Tunnel Tour

If you want to understand the true magnificence of the Temple and its extraordinary engineering prowess, take a tour of the Western Wall Tunnels that will take you deep below the Old City and along the length of these ancient walls. This 75-minute experience is led by knowledgeable guides who enlighten visitors about the amazing feats of design and engineering of the Herodian era that enabled the retaining walls of the Temple to stand until today. These walls have withstood earthquakes, fires, the Crusades, conquering armies and natural erosion to present us a picture of life at the heart of the Jewish world throughout the centuries.

Descending into the cool depths of underground Jerusalem via the arch at the northern end of the Plaza, visitors will appreciate the layers of history that lie below the Jerusalem of 2013. You’ll see a multi-dimensional model of Mount Moriah, where the Temple was located, and your guide will explain why Herod had to level out the mountain.

From here, you’ll enter the secret passage – a long underground corridor built underneath the streets of Jerusalem in Temple times to connect the upper city to the Temple Mount. Throughout history, pieces were added and you’ll get a glimpse of how the city looked to those who lived and breathed in Jerusalem thousands of years ago.

Prayer Hall Western Wall Tunnels

Prayer Hall in the Tunnels (Photo: Wknight94, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Visitors walk along the narrow tunnel to the spot that’s closest to where the Holy of Holies,  the site of the Divine Presence, the shechina was located in Temple times.

One of the most impressive sights is the massive slabs of stone that formed the lower layers of the Wall. Can you imagine a stone that weighs 570 tons and measures 45 feet x 15 feet (14 x 4.5 m)?  No wonder the Romans could destroy only part of the Wall when they ransacked the city in 70 CE.

Yeshivat HaKotel

Yeshivat HaKotel (Photo: MathKnight, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The tour ends at the northern side of the Temple Mount and lets visitors out on the Via Dolorosa.  From here you will be accompanied back via the bustling streets of the Muslim Quarter, a short ten-minute walk back to the Western Wall Plaza.  Along the way, be sure to look for the Young Israel of the Old City on your right-hand side, as well as several thriving yeshivas on the left, which have resumed their presence in facilities used for that purpose prior to 1948.

Western Wall Tunnels: Did You Know?

Tunnel tours must be booked in advance. Phone and tell them what day you want to come and they will tell you what time is available for that day. Call 02-627-1333. English tours are offered Sunday-Thursday from 7:00 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Fee: 30 NIS per adult; 15  NIS for students, seniors, soldiers and kids under 18. If you also want to go to the Generation Center as well as the Western Wall Tunnels, you can buy a combined ticket: NIS 50 for an adult, NIS 28 for soldiers, students and children under age 18 and NIS 25 for seniors.

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