מנהרת הכותל

Minharat Hakotel - Western Wall Tunnels


Useful Information

photography
Western Wall Tunnels, Jerusalem, Israel. Public Domain.
photography
Western Wall Tunnels, Jerusalem, Israel. Public Domain.
photography
Western Wall Tunnels, Jerusalem, Israel. Public Domain.
Location: Jerusalm, Old City, temple mount.
(31.776680, 35.234252)
Open: All year Sun-Thu 7:20-22, Fri 7:20-12.
Every 20 min, prebooking mandatory.
Behind the Scenes Tour: All year Sun-Thu 7-23, Fri 7-13.
Chain of Generations Center: All year Sun-Thu 9:40-23, Fri 7-12.
Journey to Jerusalem: All year Sun-Thu 9:30-18:20, Fri 7-12.
[2021]
Fee: Adults NIS 38, Children (5-18) NIS 25, Children (0-4) free, Students NIS 25, Disabled NIS 25, Seniors NIS 17.50.
Groups (18+): Adults NIS 30, Children (5-18) NIS 19, Guide NIS 295.
Behind the Scenes Tour: Adults NIS 38, Children (5-18) NIS 25, Children (0-4) free, Students NIS 25, Disabled NIS 25, Seniors NIS 17.50.
Groups (18+): Adults NIS 30, Children (5-18) NIS 19, Guide NIS 295.
Chain of Generations Center: Adults NIS 30, Children (5-18) NIS 15, Children (0-4) free, Students NIS 15, Disabled NIS 15.
Journey to Jerusalem: Adults NIS 25, Children (5-18) NIS 15, Children (0-4) free, Students NIS 15, Disabled NIS 15, Seniors NIS 12.50.
[2022]
Classification: SubterraneaEnigmatic Cavern
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=320 m.
Guided tours: D=70 min, Min=18, Max=35.
Behind the Scenes Tour: D=60 min, Min=18, Max=35.
Chain of Generations Center: D=40 min, St=60, Min=18, Max=25.
Journey to Jerusalem:
Photography: allowed, with restrictions
Accessibility: Classical Tour: yes.
Others: no
Bibliography: Sir Charles Warren, Claude Reignier Conder (1884): The survey of Western Palestine-Jerusalem. London: Palestine Exploration Fund. eBook
Sir Charles Warren (1876): Underground Jerusalem n Account of Some of the Principal Difficulties Encountered in Its Exploration and the Results Obtained. With a Narrative of an Expedition Through the Jordan Valley and a Visit to the Samaritans. R. Bentley and son, Jan. 1876. eBook
Address: Western Wall Tunnel, Western Wall Heritage Foundation, Tel: +972-2-627-1333. E-mail:
Reservations, Tel: +972-2-627-5958.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

19 BC Herod the Great expanded the Temple on the Mount by flattening a plateau on the hillside and enclosing it with four stone walls.
70 temple destroyed by the Romans.
1864 explored by Charles Wilson.
1867-1870 explored by Charles Warren.
1967 more tunnels discovered by engineers laying water pipes.
1988 Western Wall Heritage Foundation established by the Ministry of Religion.
1996 exit blasted.
2021 Behind the Scenes Tour and Chain of Generations Center opened to the public.

Description

photography
Western Wall Tunnels, Jerusalem, Israel. Public Domain.
photography
Western Wall Tunnels, Jerusalem, Israel. Public Domain.
photography
Western Wall Tunnels, Jerusalem, Israel. Public Domain.
photography
Western Wall Tunnels, Jerusalem, Israel. Public Domain.
photography
Western Wall Tunnels, Jerusalem, Israel. Public Domain.
photography
Western Wall Tunnels, Jerusalem, Israel. Public Domain.

The Kotel is the only extant remnant of the Second Temple. It serves as the Western retaining wall of the modern Temple courtyard. In Hebrew it is called הַכּוֹתֶל הַמַּעֲרָבִי (HaKotel HaMa'aravi) which simply means Western Wall. It is the holiest of all Jewish sites, Jews came here for centuries to pray and mourn their loss, hence it is also known as Wailing Wall. The site is especially visited on Sabbaths and Festivals and the 9th of Av - the anniversary of the destruction of both the 1st and 2nd Temples.

In 19 BCE, King Herod incorporated part of the hill on the northwest to double the area of the Temple Mount. Four retaining walls were constructed, and the Temple Mount was expanded on top of them. When the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, the retaining walls and the platform remained standing. But the area next to the walls was later used to build houses and only a small section is still accessible.

Inside the wall is a complex network of caverns and passageways running parallel to the Western Wall. It is called מנהרת הכותל (Minharat Hakotel, Western Wall Tunnel) and is located between the traditional, open-air prayer site and the Wall's northern end. They were discovered in the 19th century by British archaeologists, but research was stopped due to violent conflicts. After being forgotten for 50 years they were rediscovered in 1967 by engineers laying water pipes. Over decades, they were excavated by archeologists, supervised by the archeologists M. Ben-Dov and later by D. Bahat on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Several parts of the tunnel are still named after the British archaeologists. Charles Wilson was the first who discovered and explored it, Wilson's Arch was named after him. Later the excavations were continued by Charles Warren, an officer of the British Royal Engineers. In 1867, Warren was recruited by the Palestine Exploration Fund to conduct Biblical archaeology "reconnaissance". He discovered nearby Warren's Shaft and improved the topographic map of Jerusalem. Back in London he published archaeological books and became police chief, the head of the London Metropolitan Police, from 1886 to 1888 during the Jack the Ripper murders. As we all know, Jack the Ripper was never found and the chief was criticized for being incompetent. Finally he had enough of criticism and resigned.

The underground tunnels are starting at the north-west of the prayer plaza. They pass close to that part of the Western Wall which is hidden by buildings of the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. They continue through a system of vaulted areas and water cisterns. About 350 m of the Wall up to the northern edge, which is the north-western corner of the Temple Mount, can be seen. In one tunnel the largest stones of the Wall were found, including a giant stone 60 m long, 3 m high and 4 m wide, weighing approximately 400 tons.

The tunnels are actually not an archaeological building or structure which had some kind of purpose. There are some parts which belong to the water and sewage system of Jerusalem, a former Hasmonean water aqueduct. Some parts are simply the gap between the wall and the houses which were built in front. They are more or less the void which remained after the archaeologists removed archaeological material. The Western Wall stretches almost half a kilometer, but today only 70 m at the Western Wall Plaza are accessible. The tunnels give access to the rest. They call it a “time tunnel” taking us back into Jerusalem’s glory days.

A few years ago the site was completely renovated with new infrastructure and security. The regular tour was completed by specialized tours. The Western Wall Tunnels or Great Stone Tour is the classic route, which includes a tour along the length of the Western Wall, a visit to the site closest to the Holy of Holies, and a visit to the Western Wall’s huge stone. The Behind the Scenes Tour includes new archaeological excavations at the Western Wall which are still in the process of being excavated. It is one level below, where participants will see the Great Bridge that once led to the Second Temple. The route changes frequently, based on which sites are accessible. It normally includes the Ritual-Bath Complex and the Hasmonean Hall. This tour shows completely different rooms and halls.

The Journey to Jerusalem is an exhibition containing information on countries where Jewish people lived during the diaspora, mainly European countries, Russia and the U.S.A. It explains the different routes that Jews wandered, each with their own characteristics.

The Chain of Generations Center is an underground exhibition of the history of the Jewish nation. Despite a lengthy description on their website we have actually no idea what it contains, the description was just a bunch of buzzwords.

The tour A Look into the Past is not a real tour, it's a 3D virtual tour with virtual-reality technology. We were a little confused, because you actually have to go there and get a virtual-reality headset to participate. It's not possible to see it over the internet, so it actually requires to physically go there, do all the necessary Covid-19 stuff and then not to see the real site. Obviously a quite tempting idea. To be honest, they sell it as a "short experience which is a perfect addition to your visit".

The Western Wall is the holiest site of the Jews and there are numerous people praying, many of them ultra conservative. You should obviously avoid any behaviour which could be considered disrespectful. This includes eating, smoking, lighting candles, appropriate dress, and no Torah scrolls. On Sabbath and Holidays electronic devices, taking fotos and even writing is considered impolite for some reason. The following we just cite without understanding it: no mohel for a brit mila, no Shofar except during the month of Elul and Aseret Yemei Teshuva, and no doves. Also it is a spot which might be a target of terrorism, hence the security measurements are a bit overwhelming. This should be rather easy, just pack all your luggage and all the content of your pockets in a locker before you go there, except for your money of course.