soldier prays at kotel.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In an ongoing effort to connect Israeli youth with Jewish heritage, the government approved a NIS 68 million plan on Sunday for a series of projects at the Western Wall, including the opening of a new state-of-the-art tourist center adjacent to the Western Wall tunnels, scheduled to open next month.
The government's decision to invest in a spate of Western Wall projects in an attempt to make the Jerusalem holy site more attractive to Israeli teens comes at a time when an increasingly large number of Israeli youth stay away from a place which they find little in common with, even as the amount of visitors touring the Western Wall is at an all time high.
The number of people visiting the Western Wall over the last year reached five million, making it Jerusalem's top tourist attraction. This figure surpassed the previous record of four million visitors who toured the site in the year before the outbreak of Palestinian violence, and
At the same time, a recent survey found that a quarter of IDF soldiers have never been to the Western Wall.
According to the government's plan, both Israeli soldiers and high school pupils will now visit the Western Wall at least once during their service or studies.
Moreover, in an effort to make the site more user-friendly and tangible to the average Israeli youth, a lavish new tourist center will open to the public next month. The center aims to link the past with the future, and to combat secular Israelis' alienation from the increasingly-orthodox setup at the Wall.
The impressive site, which incorporates ancient and modern Jewish history, includes an elaborate sound and light show that highlight both recent discoveries of artifacts and infrastructure dating back thousands of years. The high-tech center includes one of the world's oldest aqueducts, as well as modern day Jewish history, such as the Holocaust and Israel's fallen soldiers.
Other plans for the Western Wall plaza area in the multi-million dollar government investment include a new information center, and police station, and free bar and bat mitzva services at the Wall.
"The Western Wall is the spiritual center of the Jewish nation. Without a connection to our past it will be very difficult to march on to the future," said Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch.