Another place of continuing struggle. The wall at the back is known as the Western Wall or Wailing Wall. Directly behind the wall, from where I stand, is the Temple Mount. All of it located in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The Western Wall is reckoned to be the holiest of Jewish sites, sacred because it is a remnant of the Herodian retaining wall that once enclosed and supported the Second Temple. It has also been called the "Wailing Wall" by European observers, because for centuries Jews have gathered here to lament the loss of their temple. The temple was first lost when the tribe was exiled to Babylonia and the temple was razed. On return from exile, the temple was rebuilt and the period of the Second Temple started. In 20 BC, King Herod had a retaining wall built around the temple, to enlarge and flatten the temple area. When the Romans lost their cool towards the Jews in 70 AD, Jerusalem and the temple were flattened. The temple remains flat to this day. Muslims have built the Dome of the Rock (huge mosque) and another mosque on the Temple Mount.
Since the razing of Jerusalem, the Jewish relationship with Jerusalem and the wall, went through various permutations. It started with a total ban by the Romans, for Jews to live or visit Jerusalem. Later, they were permitted to return once a year and bitterly grieve about the fate of their people. Under Christian rule they Jews were allowed to return and settle in Jerusalem. This went on for quite some time. After the Arabs took over the area right next to the wall was settled as a Moroccan Quarter. During the Ottoman period, rules started to be imposed - sometimes more and sometimes less restrictive. The part directly next to the wall became a narrow street, that had to accomodate travellers, devotees, animals, and shops.
A period of British rule started in 1917 and lasted to 1948. Their indifference to the issues concerning the wall, resulted in the 1929 Palestinian riots, when a number of people on both sides of the argument, got killed and injured. Things hot up, when people remained unhappy with British solutions to Israeli/Palestinian issues. This grew into the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, which resulted in a land division where the eastern part of Jerusalem, including the wall, landed under Jordanian rule. The armistice provided for access by Jews to the wall, which was not honoured by Jordania. No amount of requests to the likes of the UN, solved anything.
Then came the 6-day war in June 1967. The Israeli's were victorious and they now occupy the area, west of the river Jordan, including all of Jerusalem and the wall. The UN found the occupation to be illegal, but the Israeli's treat the finding with the same indifference as what the UN treated their requests, to have the free access to the Western Wall enforced, under Jordanian rule, at the time.
Forty-eight hours after capturing the wall, the military, without explicit government order, hastily proceeded to demolish the entire Moroccan Quarter which stood 4 metres from the Wall. That resulted in the open space in this picture, known as the Western Wall Plaza. It has the official status of an open-air synagogue and that is how the area is used. When I took this picture, I was standing at the barricade that indicates the boundary of the synagogue. I could have entered if I wanted to, but chose to remain outside.
To the right you can see a barrier. The large area in front of me, is the area for male worshippers and behind the barrier is the female section. Lecterns and tables are for the scrolls and books that are used during religious readings.