A Lesson on Holiness from the Western Wall Tunnel

Why God's Holiness Doesn't Hide Underground

Most of Jerusalem’s Western Wall lies underground today, accessible only through the Western Wall Tunnel in which we walked. A spry Jewish woman in her 20s led our group through the tunnel.

Western Wall place closest to Holy of Holies

(Photo: Western Wall place closest to Holy of Holies. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

After moving some distance north along a small hallway, with the Western Wall’s massive, dressed stones to our right, we stopped about halfway down at an alcove with a single light bulb. We huddled in close.

This niche represented, the young guide explained, the closest that we can get to where the Holy of Holies resided on the Temple Mount.

But what she said next caused a few biblical penalty flags to go off in my head.

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The Western Wall Tunnel—An Underground Journey to Century-One Jerusalem

Question: What major site in Jerusalem can a visitor see after the sun goes down that still requires men to wear a hat? (Okay, so you could wear a yarmulke instead of a hat. Most men remove the hat anyway.)

Answer: The Western Wall Tunnel.

Men's prayer area under Wilson's Arch

(Photo: Inside the Western Wall Tunnel. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

When you say the words “The Western Wall,” most folks think of the Western Wall plaza:

  • It’s the place where bar- and bat-mitzvahs regularly occur and where soldiers are inducted.
  • It’s the spot where ultra- and orthodox Jews come to pray—as well as many tourists—and the place of national prayer gatherings.
  • It’s Judaism’s most sacred site.

But like the tip of an iceberg, the Western Wall plaza represents only a small part of the whole. There’s much more of the wall to see.

Most of the Western Wall lies buried beneath the rubble of time and hasn’t seen the light of day for centuries.

But a tunnel lets you see the entire length of the wall today.

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