According to the Torah, Solomon's Temple was built in the 10th century BC on top of what is known as the Temple Mount, it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. The Second Temple was completed and dedicated in 516 BC. The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and is the place to which Jews turn during prayer, and the Western Wall is considered holy due to its connection to the Temple.
The term Western Wall refers to the section traditionally used by Jews for prayer, and it has also been called the "Wailing Wall" by Christians, referring to the practice of Jews weeping at the site over the destruction of the Temples, Jews however and increasingly many others consider it to be derogatory.
The previous sites used by Jews for mourning the destruction of the Temple, during periods when access to the city was prohibited to them, lay to the east, on the Mount of Olives and in the Kidron Valley below it. In 135 AC, Jews were banned from Jerusalem. There is some evidence that Roman emperors in the 2nd and 3rd centuries did permit them to visit the city to worship on the Mount of Olives and sometimes on the Temple Mount itself. When the empire became Christian under Constantine I, they were given permission to enter the city once a year, on the ninth day of the month of Av, to lament the loss of the Temple at the wall. Several Jewish authors of the 10th and 11th centuries write about the Jews resorting to the Western Wall for devotional purposes.
With the rise of the Zionist movement in the early 20th century, the wall became a source of friction between the Jewish and Muslim communities, the latter being worried that the wall could be used to further Jewish claims to the Temple Mount and thus Jerusalem. During this period outbreaks of violence at the foot of the wall became commonplace, with a particularly deadly riot occurring in 1929 in which 133 Jews were killed and 339 injured. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War the Eastern portion of Jerusalem was occupied by Jordan. Under Jordanian control Jews were completely expelled from the Old City including the Jewish quarter, and Jews were barred from entering the Old City for 19 years, effectively banning Jewish prayer at the site of the Western Wall. This period ended on June 10, 1967, when Israel established sovereignty over the site following the Six-Day War.
Following Israel's victory during the 1967 Six-Day War, the Western Wall came under Israeli control. Forty-eight hours after capturing the wall, the military, without explicit government order, hastily proceeded to demolish the entire Moroccan Quarter which stood 4 meters from the Wall. 650 people consisting of 106 Arab families were ordered to leave their homes at night. When they refused, bulldozers began to demolish the structures, causing casualties. One old woman was buried under the houses as the bulldozer razed the area.
The Western Wall has recently become a source of conflict among Jews, in the diaspora, where Jews are much more likely to adhere to non-Orthodox branches of Judaism many believe the ultra-Orthodox branch of Judaism has undue influence. In Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist branches of Judaism, women pray with men and often wear kippot and prayer shawls, items that were forbidden for women at the Wall. When women were arrested at the Wall for praying in their fashion, outrage in the diaspora ensued over curbs on religious freedom. The Jewish Agency said the arrests demonstrated the urgent need to reach a permanent solution and make the Western Wall once again a symbol of unity among the Jewish people, and not one of discord and strife.
© Daniel Botelho