How the Western Wall Became a Place of Jewish Prayer

Immediately following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Jews evidently continued to pray either on the Temple Mount itself,or on the adjacent Mount of Olives, from which they could look down on the ruins of the sanctuary. In later years, Jews in Jerusalem found a variety of places on or near the Mount to gather for prayer and mourning, but only in the 16th century did the Western Wall—one of the outer retaining walls built by King Herod during his 1st-century-BCE renovations of the Temple—become the city’s most important Jewish sanctuary. F.M. Loewenberg explains how that came to be:

What is currently known as the Western Wall . . . is not mentioned in any source prior to the 16th century. . . . There exists an ancient tradition [dating to at least the 12th century] that “the Sh’khinah [Divine presence] will never move from the Western Wall.” But this saying does not refer to the present Western Wall but, instead, described the ruins of the western [inner] wall of the Second Temple building mentioned by many pilgrims. . . . Over time, as the visible ruins of the original temple walls disappeared, this saying was applied to the current Western Wall. . . .

Fourteen years after he had ordered the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s city walls, the Ottoman sultan] Suleiman the Magnificent instructed his court architect to prepare the area that came to be known as the Western Wall as a place for Jewish worship. Such a move became possible because on January 14, 1546, a severe earthquake hit the region. . . . The area hardest hit by this earthquake in Jerusalem was the Temple Mount and the quarters surrounding it, including many of the houses that had been built along the Western Wall. These were the houses that had prevented access to most of the wall. Now that the approach was blocked by ruins rather than by houses, . . . Suleiman felt ready to instruct his engineers to clear the ruins and to prepare a Jewish prayer site at the Western Wall.

Read more at Middle East Quarterly

More about: Herod, Ottoman Empire, Prayer, Second Temple, Western Wall

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy