Sunday, May 28, 2006

Tunnels Along the Western Wall

Some years ago, the opening of the tunnels along the Western Wall of the Temple Mount caused rioting among Jerusalem Arabs. Now tourists and Israelis visit this amazing area quietly -- though by appointment only. Our friends Eshel and Michal arranged for a tour this evening.

We found the tunnels amazing. The current Arab city was built above natural ground level next to the along the Western Wall surrounding the ancient Herodian (1st century BCE) Temple Enclosure. Excavations under the existing buildings disclose the huge stones, called ashlars, of the entire Western Wall. The open area of this wall is known as the Kotel, or Wailing Wall, but the visit to the underground area reveals much more of this wall. One stone at the center is enourmous: around 580 tons. The others are big but not that big.

Before the visit, scheduled at 6:40 PM, our first stop was a pastry shop:

The tunnels:

The big stone:

And archaeologists are still excavating:

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