Tunneling Through time under the Western Wall


After years of waiting, finally I got to take a tour of the passageways below the Western retaining Wall of the Temple Mount, Jerusalem.

In 1967, when Israel reunified Jerusalem after capturing the Old City from the Jordanians, the Jewish Quarter of the Old city lay in ruins.  For nineteen years, Jews had been kept away from their holiest site from the Jordanians. Jordan had destroyed most of the synagogues in the Jewish Quarter. Most of the Western Wall, the remnant of the Holy Temple that stood two thousand years ago and was destroyed in 70 AD, was buried in rubbish.

When Israel recaptured the Old City from Jordanian rule, Israeli authorities pledged that they would restore the Old city and do extensive renovations along the Western Wall, and then continue these restorations to the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount. After decades of painstaking excavations, the tunnels were opened to the public in 2002.

For complete details on the history of these excavations, click here.

When most people think of the Western Wall, this image comes to mind:

Actually, this is only a small portion of the enormous Western Wall that King Herod (truly the Donald Trump of his day) had constructed as a retaining wall to expand the Temple Mount to support the Second Temple.

Today, this massive wall is buried and where over the centuries, the Moslem Quarter of the Old City was built over the rubble.

So, we began our journey under the Western Wall at the extreme left corner of the above photo:

 Appropriately, for Chanukkah, our guide was Mattisyahu (no, not that one), originally from Atlanta, who used Toby as a volunteer:

Toby helping out Mattisyahu demonstrate the massive size (40 feet long) each Herodian stone for the foundation of the Temple Mount

Below the surface, there are narrow passageways, but there are also cavernous rooms. The visitor is taken back to the First Century, the heyday of Jerusalem at the time of the Second Temple.

The Western Wall Tunnels provide an odd mixture of tourists

devout women wishing to pray in the quiet subterranean solitude,

As close as they can get: women of the Western Wall Tunnels

and construction workers.  In the distance, down a tunnel not yet open to the public, there are the noises of hammers and drills as further excavations are meticulously conducted as to not disturb the houses in the Moslem Quarter overhead.  There are new discoveries made every day.

 Down here, even construction work is holy.

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About stacylynngittleman

I have been a reporter and public relations professional for over 30 years, specializing in profile features and investigative longform writing. During my career I've profiled WWII Honor Flight Veterans, artists and musicians and have written on topics that range from environmental and gun control issues to Jewish culture. Click around on my writing samples plus read my blog on my personal life raising three kids over 27 years and three cities.

2 responses to “Tunneling Through time under the Western Wall”

  1. thewordmavens says :

    great photos! mazel tov on the BM in jerusalem… we went under Hezikiah’s tunnel near the edges of the wall, where water flowed into the walled city of Jerusalem. also cool and wet feet.


    • transplantednorth says :

      thank you word mavens for discovering my blog and your comments. It was truly an amazing experience exploring those tunnels. Does teaming up on one blog help generate content and traffic? I’ll have to check out your posts, thanks again.


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