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The New Kotel Plaza: an Idea Whose Time Has Come
Most non-Jewish Westerners are unfamiliar with the Kotel, but ask them about the Western Wall and they know exactly what you mean. The Kotel is the Western Wall.
Jerusalem Connection has this to say about the Kotel:
There is probably no more potent symbol among world Jewry than the Kotel. “Kotel” literally means wall, and it refers to the Western retaining wall of the Temple Mount, on top of which stood the Temple two thousand years ago. No trip to Israel is complete without a visit to the Kotel, and no Jewish site or synagogue can boast of more prayers ascending Above than the Kotel. Jews and others regularly write little notes with their requests (called a “petek” in Hebrew), and place them in the wall.
The first-time visitor to the Kotel won’t necessarily be overwhelmed with emotion. He or she may just sit in front of the Kotel and stare at it for awhile, not knowing what to do. They see a wall of huge stones, apparently from different historical periods, with anywhere from a few to a few thousand people thronging in front of it. In front of the kotel is a tefilin stand run by Chabad. There’s a “mechitza,” or separation in the middle, dividing between the men’s and women’s sections. So, what’s the Kotel all about?
It’s about prayer. What you see in front of you might seem like a three-ring circus. There are groups of people forming their own subgroups, each on their own time schedule, and going through some kind of ceremony together. Then, they part and go their own ways. That’s because for these people, Judaism isn’t an institution. It’s a way of life. Proper Jewish prayer requires us to meditate at length, using our intellectual Chabad faculties of wisdom, understanding and knowledge to grasp spiritual topics. Aside from that, each person knows that they have to pray three times a day, and that those prayers have to be in prayer quorums, each called a minyan, of ten Jewish men over thirteen years old. They know that by coming to the Kotel, they will sooner or later find a group of ten men, form their own group, and pray either the morning service (Shacharit), the afternoon (Mincha), or evening service (Ma’ariv, or Aravit), depending on what time of day they come. Everyone in the minyan knows the prayer service, its order, and when to say things aloud or to oneself. It’s not necessary that they know each other, or that they get to know each other. The very fact that ten Jewish souls pray together imparts a special spiritual efficacy to one’s prayers which isn’t present when one prays alone. It’s as if a Higher Authority comes down and bestows its presence on ten Jews in a more powerful way than when one is alone.
There is always something going on at the Kotel. As the writer for Jerusalem Connection said, and I’m paraphrasing, morning, noon, or nighttime anytime’s the right time for a visit to the Kotel. Below are several pictures that will give you some idea about what it looks like:
“Peteks” are Pieces of Paper on which Petitioners make their Requests Known to Yahweh
As the Sun Sets, the Kotel Begins to Light Up
At Dawn, there is Still Action at the Wall
There is no Mistaking who has Jurisdiction over the Kotel
The Kotel is Divided into Sections for Men and Women
The Kotel is a Gathering Place and a Place for Prayer that is Central to Jewish People and to Tourists
The Kotel’s history is seamlessly intertwined with Israel’s history:
We all know that the Western Wall, the Kotel, is the most significant site in the world for the Jewish people. We know that it is the last remnant of our Temple. We also know that Jews from around the world gather here to pray. People write notes to G-d and place them between the ancient stones of the Wall.
But did you know that…
Many important events took place on Mount Moriah, know later as Temple Mount.
Mount Moriah, according to Jewish tradition, is the place where many pivotal events in Jewish history took place. Traditionally, creation of the world began from the Foundation Stone at the peak of mountain. This is also where Adam, the first human, was created.
When Abraham was commanded to prepare his son Isaac for sacrifice, the father and son went up to “the place that G-d chooses” – Mount Moriah, and to its peak – the Foundation Stone – where the binding of Isaac took place.
Also Jacob’s dream with angels going up and down a ladder is linked to this mountain.
Later on, the Holy of Holies – the core and heart of the First and Second Temple – was built around the Foundation Stone.
The Western Wall is part of a big renovation project initiated by King Herod.
In the year 37 BCE, Herod was appointed king in Jerusalem and he soon initiated a huge renovation project for the Temple. He hired many workers who toiled to make the Temple more magnificent and to widen the area of the Temple Mount by flattening the mountain peak and building four support walls around it.
The Western Wall is the western support wall built during this widening of the Temple Mount Plaza.
What makes the Western Wall (and not one of the other three remaining support walls) the most special is its proximity to the location of the Holy of Holies in the Temple.
The Second Temple was destroyed in the year 70 CE. Despite the destruction that took place, all four Temple Mount support walls remained standing. Throughout the generations since the Temple’s destruction, the Western Wall was the remnant closest to the site of the Temple’s Holy of Holies that was accessible to Jews. Therefore, it became a place of prayer and yearning for Jews around the world. When Jews expressed their longing for Jerusalem through song, Judaica, jewelry, and prayer, the image of Jerusalem was conveyed via the image of the Western Wall.
The Old City of Jerusalem, and the Western Wall within it, was not in Jewish hands from the War of Independence in 1948 until the Six Day War in 1967.
Even before 1948, the return of the Jewish nation to its land caused tensions around the Western Wall. The eruption of violence in 1929 was linked to a divider placed at the Wall. As a result of the violence, a British investigative committee was created that decided to maintain the status quo at the Western Wall. The chief rabbinate appointed a rabbi, Rabbi Orenstein, to oversee the happenings at the Wall.
In 1948, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City fell to Jordanian hands. The Jewish homes were destroyed. Among those killed was the Western Wall’s first rabbi who refused to leave the Wall or his home and was killed in the bombings.
During 19 long years of Jordanian rule, Jews were not able to reach the Wall and pray in front of its ancient stones. All that [was] possible was to climb up to Mount Zion and glance at the Wall from a distance.
During the Six Day War of 1967, paratroopers led by Motta Gur broke through to the Old City through the Lion’s Gate. The Western Wall and Temple Mount were liberated, the city of Jerusalem was reunified, and the Jewish people were again able to come to the Western Wall to pray.
The exposed, outdoor section of the Western Wall is just a small part of the whole Wall.
The part of the Western Wall that we see at the Prayer Plaza is 57 meters (187 feet) long. The entire length of the Western Wall, however, is actually 488 meters (1,600 feet) long! Where is the remaining part of the Western Wall?
The first approximately 80 meters (262 feet) on the southern end were uncovered immediately after the Six Day War and can be seen at the Southern Excavations. The Prayer Plaza, expanded in the years after the Six Day War, is located in the adjacent 57 meters to the north. The remaining 320 meters (1,050 feet) continues underground beneath the streets and houses of the Old City of Jerusalem. Sections of the Wall were uncovered in ongoing excavations and can [be] seen now within the Western Wall Tunnels.
The Western Wall is visited by millions of visitors a year – Jews and non-Jews alike.
Today, millions of visitors come to the Western Wall every year. Thousands of Bar and Bat Mitzvah children choose to mark this special event with their families at the Wall. Soldiers serving in the Israel Defense Forces swear loyalty to their nation and homeland at the Western Wall Plaza. People from all over the world pay their respects to the Jewish people’s magnificent history by visiting this special site.
The ancient, 2,000-year-old stones of the Western Wall have witnessed the Jewish people’s birth, exile, and redemption. This is where the Jewish nation’s past mingles with its hopes for the future.
The Western Wall is a living testimony to the strength and resilience of the Jewish nation.
Today, the Kotel Plaza is in need of serious renovation so that it can accommodate visitors. The pictures below show how unwieldy its arrangement has become:
Although the Kotel is accessible, its arrangement is cumbersome at best.
The covered walkway known as the Mughrabi Bridge provides access to the Temple Mount for non-Muslims. It is unsightly, unacceptable and politically charged.
There is a master plan for improving the Kotel Plaza, and its timing couldn’t be better:
The rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, is pleased with the decision made by Jerusalem’s district planning and construction committee.
“The number of visitors to the Western Wall plaza has multiplied by 5 over the last few years and is expected to grow even more in the near future” says the rabbi.
“The foundations remain as they were. The Western Wall Plaza is suffering from [a] shortage [of] bathrooms; there is no station for mothers, no information station for the millions of visitors, no police station or first aid station, and hundreds of the workers of the Western Wall – from security guards through management staff – all work in impossible conditions.
Not Only for Prayer
[Over] the last few years, [there has been] a dramatic increase in the number of visitors to the Western Wall, including many who are not religious; teachers bringing their students to the Western Wall, not only for praying, but to undergo a significant experience, parents of Bar and Bat mitzvah children who wish to connect their child to Jewish history, groups of soldiers and officers who come to learn and debate; has brought the need to allow for a respectable sitting arrangement, a place where people can sit, talk and learn, as part of their visit to the Western Wall. People sprawled all over the Western Wall Plaza are a disgrace to themselves and to the Western Wall.
Years of Planning
The plans for the Western Wall Plaza, which were approved today, are the product of many years of planning. “Since its preparation for prayer, following the Six-Day War, there has been no long term planning for the Plaza, as is appropriate for the most visited and important Jewish and national site.
The program is part of Mayor Barkat’s plans to expand … tourism in the city and to increase the visitors to Jerusalem threefold – approximately 15 million visitors a year. Many people were included in the process, such as Deputy Mayor Kobi Kahlon, members of the city council, the city engineer and his staff who are in charge of planning in the municipality, and others.
Making the Past Accessible
As part of the plans, the Byzantine Kardo, which was built on the ruins of Jewish Jerusalem, will be exposed and made accessible, and a new direct entrance to the Kotel Tunnels will be opened, through the Tanners Gate in the Southern Wall. “There is a long standing argument between archeologists about the proper way to preserve antiquities” says the rabbi of the Western Wall. “We support the modern system, accepted all over the world, that archeology is not dead rocks. To allow the public access to the new and fascinating findings from the Western Wall Plaza, we are planning to integrate them in [an] exhibit that will surround them, explain them and will make the visit a tangible experience which will be understood by the public.”
It is important to remember that alongside the archeological findings is a holy site, and a separation between the Prayer Plaza and the tours of the archeological site, is required.
A Partial Solution
The plan which has been approved still does not address all the challenges that exist. Recently, the courts revoked the permission for the plans of the new Mughrabi Bridge, which would have included expansion of the women’s section of the Western Wall Plaza, a necessary and important change. The new plan answers to the court’s demands while viewing the Western Wall in a larger context and allowing for expansion on the women’s side. “We haven’t found solutions to all the problems” said Rabbi Rabinowitz, “We will continue to work with planning parties and the best planners in the country, to find the best solutions for the millions of visitors to the Western Wall.”
The rabbi of the Western Wall expressed hope that the new plans will be supported by the planning committees, after hearing the opinions of the supporters and the opposers, who will express their views.
The rabbi also stated that all plans do not involve the stones of the Western Wall itself, so as to keep the balance of the sensitive area and the delicate fabric of life in the Old City.
If approved, the master plan will result in the creation of a modern facility that can accommodate the needs of all the visitors to the Kotel. It represents an important and necessary change that is long overdue. Below is an artist’s rendering of the vastly improved Kotel Plaza.
A Master Plan for the Development of the Kotel Plaza
As expected, the Palestinian Authority (PA) objects to the Kotel master plan. In fact, they have problems with anything that even hints at a Jewish presence in Israel. PA leaders including PA President Mahmoud Abbas have been telling the world that Jewish people never inhabited the Holy Land, that there never was a Temple, and that they alone have sovereignty. Of course, they are lying, but the world is full of useful idiots and anti-Semites who eat it up. They buy that manure hook, line, and sinker.
When information about the Kotel master plan was made public, the Jerusalem Post published an article that highlighted the PA’s concerns:
The Palestinian Authority will not permit Israel to change the entrance to the Temple Mount in order to facilitate the building of an egalitarian prayer area near the Western Wall, PA Religious Affairs Minister Mahmoud Habbash told The Jerusalem Post in Ramallah on Thursday morning.
And any Israeli attempt to “Judaize” holy sites in Jerusalem would be viewed by Arabs and Muslims as a declaration of war, Habbash warned.
Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky’s plan would allow for the construction of an additional section of the Western Wall Plaza at the southern end of the Kotel – equal in size and height to the northern prayer area for egalitarian worship – and accessible as part of one unified Western Wall complex with a single entrance.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has told Sharansky to meet with National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror to deal with sensitive issues surrounding Mughrabi Bridge.
“Any changes in Haram a-Sharif [Temple Mount] are unacceptable to the Palestinians and the Arab side,” Habbash said in a meeting with Israeli journalists organized by the One Voice organization. “It’s a change of our heritage site and I believe such changes may push all of us to new conflicts and problems.”
Habbash, who is a former Hamas member from the Gaza Strip but strongly backs two states for two peoples, said any change in the status quo regarding the Temple Mount must wait until a final-status agreement between Israel and the PA.
“Any changes in this situation will make the problem more difficult,” Habash said.
“We don’t agree to any changes. It’s a Wakf [Islamic trust] place, and Islamic place and we have documents to prove it. You can pray how you want after the liberation of Palestine.”
Habbash said he would agree with Netanyahu that there should be peace talks without preconditions, but only if the prime minister gave guarantees that the talks would not fail like past negotiations. He said he is trying to persuade his people to support a two-state solution but he is concerned that Netanyahu will not be willing to translate his support for a Palestinian state into actions.
“If you believe in two states, where do you imagine it – on the moon?” he asked rhetorically.
Israel is trying to “change the situation inside Jerusalem,” Habbash told the PA’s Voice of Palestine radio station.
“Israel is trying to change the status quo,” he charged. “This would be considered a turning of the tables in the face of all.”
He added: “How can there be negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel in light of these practices against the rights of the Palestinians? How can there ever be any peace process with Israel?” Meanwhile, PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki condemned statements by Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, who said in a series of interviews in the past few days that a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 lines would not be acceptable for some of his government colleagues.
Danon was quoted as saying that the governing coalition was “strongly opposed to a two-state solution and would block the creation of a Palestinian state if such a proposal ever came to a vote.”
Malki said that Danon’s statements “expose the real face of the occupations and its leaders and the true strategy pursued by Israeli governments since 1967.”
Malki has dispatched letters to the UN secretary-general, foreign ministers of several countries and the Arab League drawing their attention to Danon’s statements, which he said jeopardized the peace process.
He urged the international community to hold Israel responsible for the failure of US efforts to revive the peace talks, adding that Danon’s statements were aimed at thwarting US Secretary of State John Kerry’s mission to restart the peace process.
As you can see, in today’s hot political climate, changes at the Kotel are problematic, and they are closely tied to the “peace” talks that are underway right now between Israel and the PA. That makes them even more challenging. Be that as it may, changes at the Kotel are important and necessary; Israel has the right to make them; and Yahweh has jurisdiction. Unfortunately, most people in the world today don’t know Yahweh, and they don’t recognize His authority. That will change in the twinkling of an eye in due course, but for now, Yahweh’s people need to lend their support to Israel as her leaders prepare for His long-awaited arrival.
Tea Time with Hizbullah (Video)
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Eyal Zisser: With Sissi at the Helm, the Egyptian Army Regained Its Footing—Egyptian Defense Minister Col. Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is a vital and feisty officer, full of energy and ambition. With Sissi at the helm, the Egyptian army regained its footing and it has risen against the Muslim Brotherhood, which had gone too far by trying to install – under the guise of a democratic process – an Islamic republic that would ensure their rule forever.
Boaz Bismuth: Obama hung out to dry— The Egyptians have not forgiven the American president for abandoning Mubarak to the Muslim Brotherhood. General Sissi did not even answer his phone call.
Uri Heitner: Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater— It is not love of Israel, or love of peace, that prompts Egypt to honor its deal with Israel — it is solely U.S. aid.
Yossi Beilin: ‘Morsi didn’t win the elections’— Egyptian official says the army rigged the 2012 presidential elections last summer, fearing Morsi supporters would call foul and riot, just as they have since his ouster.
Yossi Melman: Only New Sanctions Can Move Iran Back from the Nuclear Brink—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has, over four years, emphasized that he is willing to unleash the Israeli Air Force to slow Iran’s nuclear drive. According to most indications and experts, 2014 or early 2015 is the time frame in which Iran can achieve its ambition. According to senior Israeli officials, the only way to deter Iran is to keep up economic and political pressure. The Obama administration, in order to avoid Israeli action against Iran, should be seeking to ratchet up sanctions on Tehran, including by implementing Congressional resolutions aimed at stopping Iranian oil exports.
Lyn Julius: When Arabs Confiscated Jewish-Owned Land—The EU assumes that the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are “Arab land.” Yet it is little known that thousands of Arab squatters in “Arab east Jerusalem” live on land still owned by the Jewish National Fund. The Kalandia refugee camp north of Jerusalem and the Deheishe refugee camp south of Bethlehem were built on JNF land.
David Lister: Jerusalem Season of Culture: A Cultural Melting Pot with No Dividing Walls—The Jerusalem Season of Culture in August is trying to bring Arab and Jew together, to bring the largely Palestinian population of east Jerusalem to the arts events taking place in the western part of the city, and for the two usually separate communities to come together over culture.
Simcha Jacobovici: In Arabic, Jerusalem is Jewish—An al-Qaeda affiliate in Sinai calling itself “Ansar Beit al-Maqdes” took “credit” for preparing a rocket attack on Israel. “Ansar Beit al-Maqdes” literally means the “Army of the Holy Temple.” Media outlets mistranslate the name as “Army for Jerusalem,” but in Arabic, Jerusalem is called “al-Quds,” “the Holy.”
Uzi Dayan: The negotiator’s handbook— The seven core principles for negotiators are: a speedy return to talks, recognition of the Jewish state, defensible borders, no “right” of return, security arrangements, a solution on Hamas, bilateral negotiations.
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The scripture below is from the New American Standard Bible, and the hyperlinks associated with each word are from Strong’s Concordance for the New American Standard Bible.
Hosea 13: 1-2
When Ephraim spoke, [there was] trembling. He exalted himself in Israel, but through Baal he did wrong and died. And now they sin more and more, and make for themselves molten images, idols skillfully made from their silver, all of them the work of craftsmen. They say of them, “Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves!”
- God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘Yahweh, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ This [Yahweh] is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.” (Exodus 3: 15)
- “Therefore behold, I am going to make them know—this time I will make them know My power and My might; and they shall know that My name is Yahweh.” (Jeremiah 16: 21)
- “Behold, the days are coming,” declares Yahweh, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, ‘Yahweh our righteousness.’” (Jeremiah 23: 5-6)
- Yeshua said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” (John 8: 58)
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Blessings in the Book of Revelation is a book that you need to read, especially now. There are blessings throughout the Scriptures but Revelation is the only book in the Bible actually containing a specific blessing for reading it. It’s repeated twice, once at the beginning and again at the end. This is the reason that I believe Revelation should be the first step toward studying biblical prophecy. Though not easy to do, Revelation can be broken down and understood by anyone, not just the academic elite. So, Revelation’s blessings are for everyone. Click here to order the eBook. Click here to order the paperback.
Other Books by Neil Snyder
- Stand! is a suspense novel that exposes the lies, corruption, and greed underlying the theory that man-made CO2 emissions are responsible for global warming. Professor Wes Carlyle and Karen Sterling, his research collaborator, carefully scan the audience for their would-be attacker—a member of the enviro-gestapo who has been following them for days. Wes spots his man in the back of the room leaning against the wall. Suddenly, another man in the audience steps forward and moves toward Karen at a menacing pace. With a vicious stroke, he swings a billy club at her head. Click here to order the eBook. Click here to order the paperback.
- What Will You Do with the Rest of Your Life? deals with a question that every Christian has to consider: what should I do with my life? Click here to order the eBook. Click here to order the paperback.
- Falsely Accused is a true story about a young woman who was accused of committing a double homicide. It’s about a travesty of justice, and it reveals Yahweh intervening in the life of a believer to rescue her from danger in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Everyone will enjoy the book, but young people in particular need to read it because the mistakes made that led to the problem could have been avoided. They were the kinds of mistakes that young people are prone to make. As they say, forewarned is forearmed. Click here to order the eBook. Click here to order the paperback.