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 Wailing Wall Definition

Wailing Wall - (in Hebrew "Hakotel Hama'aravi, "Kotel," also Western Wall) - The "Wailing Wall" is all or part of the Western Wall of the ancient Jewish temple destroyed by Titus in 70 C.E. The Muslims believe that Mohamed tethered his horse here when he and the horse were transported miraculously from Arabia to Jerusalem in one night by Allah. They call the wall al Buraq.

The wall, apparently an outer retaining wall or surrounding wall of the Second temple or the Herodian restoration, was the only part of the Temple remaining after Titus sacked Jerusalem.

Jews have prayed at the Wailing Wall for nearly two thousand years. In Jewish tradition, the Wailing Wall is holier than any other accessible place. The Temple mount, the Temple and its courtyard are holier, but are off limits to most Orthodox Jews.  A tradition of placing prayers or requests written on small pieces of paper in cracks in the Wall goes back hundreds of years.


Wailing Wall, Jerusalem, 1912







Wailing Wall, 1912 (Larger Photo)

The wall was a frequent point of friction with Arabs. In 1929, riots began (see Arab Riots and Massacres of 1929)  because  rumors were spread that Jews were going to build a synagogue at the Wailing Wall. The British government, appeasing the Arabs, issued a document in 1931 guaranteeing the rights of the Muslims to the wall and limiting Jewish rights. In 1948, when Jerusalem fell to the Jordanians, they prevented Jewish access to the Wailing Wall, in violation of the armistice agreements, and built structures close to the wall. In 1967, when the old city of Jerusalem was liberated by Israel, the wall was restored. Structures built near the wall were cleared,  and archeologists dug out parts of the wall that had been buried.

It became a custom to hold Bar-Mitzvah ceremonies at the wall, as well as other events. In recent years, friction developed between orthodox Jews and conservative and reform Jewish women, because the latter wished to pray in the area that orthodox Jews have reserved for men.



Synonyms and alternate spellings: Al Buraq, Western Wall, Kotel Hama'aravi)

Further Information: Arab Riots and Massacres of 1929

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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