We visited the Old City of Jerusalem where we visited a series of tunnels and cisterns under the Muslim neighborhood next to the West Wall of the Temple Mount. To understand the layers of history of the area, our guide used a model of the Mount.
This shows the Mount as it was initially. The Jews believe that civilization was created here and that God is present here.
King Solomon built the First Temple on the Mount in 957 BC. The Babylonians destroyed it.
Herod the Great, raised as a Jew, was a vassal of the Roman Empire and was granted the title of King of Judea. He built a huge platform on the Mount surrounded by walls in 20 – 18 BC.
He then built a Second Temple.
Here is another model looking at the Mount form the East.
The Roman Emperor, Titus, destroyed Herod’s temple in 70 AD, drove the Jews out, and sacked Jerusalem of its wealth. He returned to Rome and built the Colosseum with the spoils.
A Roman temple was built on the Mount, but then the Muslims invaded and built the Dome of the Rock in 691 AD on the platform that Herod had originally built.
Then the Muslims wanted a higher access to the Mount so they built a series of tunnels with arches as an elevated foundation and built their city on top. And that is the way it is today. The total height of the retaining wall was 105 feet when Herod built it but only 62 feet are exposed today.
The closest that Jews can get today to the site of the First and Second Temples is the Western Wall. Only a portion is accessible at street level (a width of 230 ft.), but 1591 more feet of the wall is accessible underneath the Muslim city by the tunnels that run along its length. Excavations began after the Six Day War (1967) and continued for 20 years.
Here is a diagram.
We walked through the tunnels and were able to see lower parts of the wall that Herod built.
Some of the chambers are very large and in some areas of the tunnels there are two elevations.
This rock is 45 ft. wide, 9.8 ft. high and 11 ft. thick. It weighs 570 tons! It is the largest rock moved by humans without modern equipment!
Right: One section of the underground Western Wall is used by Jewish women to pray.
Left: Tunnels running along the Western Wall have been connected with a tunnel used for water that was constructed by the Maccabees. There were some very tight passages.
After walking through the tunnels, we visited the above-ground Western Wall.
Women and men each have their own part of the wall.
Betsey referred to me as Mother Theresa in this photo, but I doubt that MT would have worn such a colorful scarf….
The arrow points to where I inserted my tiny note. I had to work to poke it into the crack.
Jerusalem is a great place to people watch because people come here from all over the world and some religious people wear interesting outfits. Here are some Hasidic Jews.