By PEGGY CIDOR
The Western Wall, or Wailing Wall, is the only remnant from the second Temple, built by Herod the Great and destroyed by the Roman Emperor Titus, which led to the expulsion of most of the Jews living in the land. The earliest time we know about the use of the term "Wailing Wall" is around the 11th century. According to scholars, it comes from the custom developed by the Jews to go and sit on the ground in front of the wall and mourn the destruction of the Temple.
Following the arrival of Jewish pioneers of the Zionist movement in the 19th century and the growing tensions between Jews and Arabs, the Muslims began to use the name of Al-Buraq for the wall, connecting it to the Muslim tradition of the winged horse of the prophet Muhammad. To this day, the official Arab point of view is that there is no evidence of any Jewish connection to the wall and the mound behind it on which two mosques are erected.
Lately, the moderate Palestinian leader and president of Al-Quds University of east Jerusalem, Sari Nusseibeh, published, together with the Ecole Biblique of Jerusalem, a survey in which he admits for the first time that the Jewish narrative, which sees the place as the remnant of the Jewish Temple, fits the historical and scholarly findings. It is notable, however, that since then, some two weeks ago Nusseibeh has refused to speak to any journalist.
The Western Wall is made of huge stones, with a height of 57 meters. It faces a large plaza which, since 1967, has served as a venue for national ceremonies. According to archeologists, the wall was built as a retaining wall whose purpose was to support the extensive renovations that Herod the Great carried out in 19 BCE. The wall consists of 45 stone rows, 28 of them above ground and 17 underground. The first seven visible layers are from the Herodian period and built from huge stones. Most of them weigh between two and eight tons each, but others weigh even more. One extraordinary stone located in the northern section of Wilson's Arch measures 13 meters and weighs approximately 570 tons. The next four layers - visibly different in their shape and sizes - were added by the Umayyads in the seventh century. The next 14 layers are from the Ottoman period. Their addition is attributed to Sir Moses Montefiore, who in 1866 financed them to provide "shade and protection from the rain for all who come to pray by the holy remnant of our Temple." The top three layers were placed by the Mufti of Jerusalem shortly before 1967.
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