Every six months, before Pesach and Rosh Hashanah, Western Wall Heritage Foundation engineers and Israel Antiquities Authority conservators conduct thorough inspections of the 2,000-year-old Kosel stones at the prayer plaza to ensure visitors’ safety.
As part of the preparations for the chagim, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation is preparing to host Am Yisrael for Selichos and Yom Tov davening.
The first Selichos at the Kosel will take place next Tuesday, 2 Elul, starting at midnight.
The work being carried out at the site is subject to religious strictures established by the Rabbi of the Kosel, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, after consultations with leading Poskim of the time, nearly eighteen years ago, particularly Hagaon Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, zt”l.
According to Yossi Vaknin, head conservator for the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Western Wall area, “The Wall’s 2,000-year-old stones are subject to natural weathering and we are making sure to strengthen them. Our routine biannual inspections enable us to track the condition of every single stone. We have an ‘identity card’ for each of the hundreds of stones in the plaza and monitor dozens of features. Our most recent survey revealed that it was necessary to treat the ‘peel’, or outer layer, of several stones. Our work on the historic wall is nondestructive. We do not drill into the stone, but delicately inject dissolved stone into the gaps and fissures. limestone-based grout is injected into the fissure as a liquid, and when dry, the crack is repaired. It is the best possible method of ‘healing’ the stones and the ultimate defense against weathering for the most important stones in the world.”
One of the main contributors to the weathering of the Har HaBayis walls is the ecosystem that forms an integral part of the landscape of the ancient Western Wall. “The Western Wall is a unique ecological environment that supports its own life forms,” says Vaknin. “A lot of plants have taken root in the Wall’s stones – particularly thorny capers, golden drops and golden henbanes. Added to this, many birds nest in the Wall, including the common swift which arrives every year, ravens and doves. As part of our conservation work, in recognition of the importance of the site’s unique flora and fauna, we also preserve this ecosystem while guaranteeing the stones’ stability, thus ensuring that the Western Wall will remain strong for at least 2,000 more years.”