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The Western Wall (Kotel)

At the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City sits the Western Wall or Kotel, as it’s known in Hebrew. The Kotel is also known as the Wailing Wall, for all those who frequent the wall, rocking their bodies in prayer, a movement that resembles crying. For thousands of centuries, Jews have come to pray at the Western Wall, believing that God's spirit loomed large over this place where the great temple once stood. Today, Jews from around the world make the pilgrimage to the Old City and the Kotel in an effort to unite with their God.

It is widely believed that the Western Wall was not technically part of the ancient Temple Mount but merely a small portion of the surrounding wall that was intended to keep King Solomon's temple safe. Despite this technicality, the Western Wall remains the closest point to the holiest room of the temple, the holy of holies, a proximity that has given it sacred repute in the hearts and minds of Jews worldwide. No bar/bat mitzvah tour or Jewish heritage tour is complete without a visit to the Western Wall.

A Note in the Western Wall

While your family may request to visit the Kotel during a private tour to Israel, many of the ARZA World tours to Israel are also sure to focus on the Old City of Jerusalem and the Western Wall.

When on a family tour to Israel, we recommend setting some time aside to visit the Western Wall. Apart from its rich history, the large plaza facing the Wall is a sight of constant activity that will engage children in the flow of people and will offer them a taste of the Old City.

The age-old custom of inserting notes written with wishes and prayers into the crevices of the Wall is one that children and adults both enjoy. As many visitors to the Western Wall have commented, you don't have to be religious to feel the mystical powers of this ancient structure and be deeply moved by it.

Savor the History of the Western Wall

The image of Israeli soldiers crying tears of joy as they made their way to the Western Wall after the intensive 1967 Six-Day War is a vivid representation of Israel's history. The wall was inaccessible to Israeli Jews for nearly twenty years after Israel’s independence in 1948, as it was under Jordanian rule. Following Israel’s victories in 1967, the Old City came back under Israeli rule, making the Western Wall part and parcel of one's conception of Israel as a free state.

While the Western Wall holds a symbolic value in Israel's national and secular history, becoming the site for many national ceremonies, it also doubles as a grand outdoor synagogue. Visiting the premises on a Friday night as well as on any Jewish holiday guarantees any Israel tour participant a fascinating peek at ritually rigorous Jewish life and practices.

The Western Wall: The Perfect Place to Celebrate a Bar Mitzvah

What better way to inaugurate your son into the Jewish heritage than to celebrate his thirteenth birthday at this holiest of landmarks? Bar mitzvahs are held in and around the Western Wall year-round, and are always a festive and awe-inspiring occasion. At the same time, girls cannot celebrate their bat mitzvah at the Wall, as Israel’s Orthodox rabbinate retains control of the site and runs it according to Orthodox practices.

When celebrating your son's bar mitzvah at the Kotel, you may entertain more guests than those invited, as men and women who come to pray at this holy site often join the celebrations; congratulating and blessing the family. Passersby also tend to get caught up in the tradition, and often stop to pay their respects to the celebrating entourage.

Related Links

* Israel Tours
* Bar / Bat Mitzvah Tours
* Jewish Heritage Tours

Israel Tours