|The Jewish records of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries inform us that the place of the "Wailing Wall" was a spot situated at the base of the Western Wall of the Haram esh-Sharif where Christian women would assemble at various times in order to deposit their garbage (such as ordure, menstrual clothes and other refuse).|
There is absolute proof that the present site of the Jewish "Wailing Wall" in Jerusalem is NOT any part of the Temple that existed in the time of Herod and Jesus. In fact, that particular location that the Jewish authorities have accepted represents the Western Wall of an early Roman fortress (finally built and enlarged by Herod the Great). King Herod called it Fort Antonia, after the famous Mark Anthony who lived at the end of the first century before Christ.
It was formerly called the Baris in the proceeding hundred years and it finally became known as the Praetorium in the New Testament period (the central military edifice in Jerusalem where the commanding general of a Legion of troops had his headquarters). This rectangular type of building clearly resembles most permanent military camps that the Romans constructed throughout the Empire to house their Legions.
Indeed, when the Bordeaux Pilgrim visited Jerusalem in 333 C.E., he looked east from an area in front of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (then in its final stages of being built) and said he saw this Praetorium directly eastward with its walls (he mentioned "walls" in the plural – meaning the southern and western walls) firmly entrenched in the bottom of the Tyropoeon Valley. This central valley of Jerusalem (the Valley of the Cheesemakers) separated the eastern mountain ridge of the city (the original Mount Zion of the Bible) from the larger and more extensive western ridge.
What the Bordeaux Pilgrim provided in his writing is a perfect description of what we call today the Haram esh-Sharif. It is the remains of Fort Antonia. This Herodian structure housed the Tenth Legion left by Titus after the Roman/Jewish War of 66 to 73 C.E. The Tenth Legion continued its presence within its walls for over 200 years — until the Legion left for Ailat on the Red Sea in 289 C.E. The Haram esh-Sharif (Fort Antonia) is the only remaining part of the Jerusalem that existed in the period of Herod and Jesus. And the present Jewish authorities have mistakenly accepted its Western Wall as being the wall of Herod’s Temple. They are wrong! It is actually the Western Wall of Fort Antonia.
But how did the present "Wailing Wall" get erroneously selected by the Jewish authorities as a holy place for the Jews? As I have abundantly shown in my new book "The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot" and in my supplemental articles on the ASK Web Site, the Jewish authorities in and around Jerusalem from 70 C.E. until 1077 C.E. (for over a thousand years) only showed their religious interest for the location of the Temple at the area positioned over and around the Gihon Spring.
This was at least 1000 feet south of what later became known as the Dome of the Rock. This is the exact area that the Genizah documents from Egypt show the Jewish authorities wished to live (to be near their Temple) in the time of Omar, the Second Caliph (638 C.E.). The Jewish records show (mentioned in my book and supplemental articles) that it is without doubt the southeastern ridge of Jerusalem that contained the Temples of Solomon, Zerubbabel and that of Herod.
However, with the period of the Crusades, things begin to change. After a period of 50 years (from 1099 to 1154 C.E.) during which no Jewish person was allowed into the City of Jerusalem, we then have records that a few Jews began to return to Jerusalem. It was only at this time (around 1054 C.E.) that some Jewish people started to imagine that the Christian and Muslim identification of the Dome of the Rock for the site of the former Temples might have relevance. This was first mentioned by Benjamin of Tudela. It was this Jewish traveler in about 1169 C.E., who first suggested that the region of the Dome of the Rock should be considered the site of the former Temples.
This was a great error, but within a hundred years after Benjamin all Jews in the world came to believe it (I will explain why the Jews erroneously did so in a biblical and historical way in next month’s article titled: "Expansion and Portability of Zion"). So, a new area for the site of the Temple was selected by the Jews in the time of Benjamin of Tudela. Benjamin even pointed to a low balustrade that existed in his time near the western entrance to the octagonal edifice (this balustrade has since been destroyed) and he identified it with the "Western Wall" of the Holy of Holies that earlier Jews had mentioned in their former literature.
He, of course, was wrong. The "Western Wall" that the Talmuds and the writers of the Midrashim referred to was that remnant wall that was at one time the Western Wall of the Holy of Holies from the ruins of a later Temple than that of Herod. This later Temple was twice attempted to be built (once was in the time of Constantine from 313 to 325 C.E. and again a short time later in the period of Julian the Apostate about 362 C.E.). The particular site where those two later Temples were attempted to be constructed was within the proper precincts of Herod’s former Temple. This later Temple was built over and near the Gihon Spring on the southeast ridge (1000 feet SOUTH of the Dome of the Rock).
But in the time of Benjamin of Tudela (1169 C.E.), some Jews decided to reposition the Temple from that southeastern section of Jerusalem up to the Dome of the Rock. They also invented a new "second" Western Wall as a part of the supposed Holy of Holies by identifying it with that ruined balustrade at the western entrance to the Dome of the Rock. During this time (in 1169 C.E. and for the next 380 years), the Jewish people paid NO ATTENTION whatever to the "Western Wall" of the Haram esh-Sharif which is now called their "Wailing Wall."
Until the 16th century of our era, that western area produced NO INTEREST in the minds of the Jewish authorities or laity. Indeed, from the Crusades until the rise of the Ottoman Empire in 1517 C.E., the Jews customarily assembled in the very opposite direction — at the EASTERN side of the Haram on the Mount of Olives (or, at the EASTERN wall itself at what they called the Gate of Mercy if the Muslim authorities would allow them to get that close). They congregated in the eastern part from the Haram in order to face the Dome of the Rock in the west that they finally considered (erroneously) to be the former spot of their Temples.
When Benjamin of Tudela visited the spot in the middle of the 12th century, he was able to stand at the eastern wall and pray toward the Dome of the Rock. However, a few years later, the Jewish traveler Petachia of Ratisbon mentioned the "Gate of Mercy" but said "no Jew is permitted to go there." Petachia said the Jews were then meeting on the Mount of Olives and "prayers were offered up there" (Elkan Adler, Jewish Travellers in the Middle Ages, p.90). This is further vindicated by Rabbi Jacob in 1238-44 C.E. who said "we ascend the Mount of Olives…until we reach a platform which is on the Mount of Olives, where the Red Heifer was slain, and we go uphill to the platform which faces the Temple gate. Thence we see the Temple Mount and all the buildings upon it, and we pray in the direction of the Temple" (ibid., p,117).
Further on in his writing, Rabbi Jacob states: "Around the Foundation Stone, the Ishmaelite kings have built a very beautiful building for a house of prayer and erected on the top of a very fine cupola [Dome]. The building is the site of the Holy of Holies and the Sanctuary" (ibid. p.118). Though the Jewish records show that Jews before the Crusades believed the Temple Mount was over the Gihon Spring, now in the 13th century it was being reckoned (wrongly) to be at the Dome of the Rock.
Later, in the time of Isaac Chelo (1334 C.E.), he refers to the "Western Wall" that was mentioned by Benjamin of Tudela which he said stood before the Temple of Omar ibn al Khattah. The language of Chelo is confusing because he strangely called Omar’s "Temple" as being the "Gate of Mercy" and that the "Western Wall" was located before the Temple [which normally means east of the building]. But since Chelo is citing Benjamin (who placed the "Western Wall" just in front of the entrance to the Dome of the Rock), this is no doubt what Chelo also intended to convey. Yet Chelo mixed-up the chronology and said his "Western Wall" was discovered in the time of Omar (638 C.E.) when some Jews told him that there was some "heaped rubbish and filth over the spot, so that no one knew exactly where the ruins [of the former Temple] stood." But an old Jewish man finally showed Omar (back in 638 C.E.) "the ruins of the Temple under a mound of defilements" (ibid. p.131).
The records are chronologically confusing because the later Jewish travelers misidentified a "Western Wall" as being that of two different time periods. The first period was that when the Muslims first conquered Jerusalem in 638 C.E., and the second period was that which began with Benjamin of Tudela in 1169 C.E. (well over 400 years later). Indeed, as I have explained in my book, the first "Western Wall" was connected with the Holy of Holies of the Sanctuaries built in the time of Constantine and Julian, while the second "Western Wall" (over 400 years later) was thought to be at the west side of the Dome of the Rock. The Jews in the Crusade period finally accepted the Dome of the Rock as the general site of the Holy of Holies. There is yet, however, a further complication in rationally trying to identify the "Western Wall."
This further confusion is the selection by the Jews of the present "Wailing Wall" as being the "Western Wall" mentioned by the early Talmudic Jews in their literature. The truth is, on the other hand, that later "Western Wall" had nothing to do with the Holy of Holies and everyone knew this. The "Wailing Wall" is actually the outer "Western Wall" of the Haram esh-Sharif which I have shown in my book to be the Western Wall of the former Fort Antonia and it has nothing to do with ANY of the former Temples of the Jews. This latter wall was finally selected by the Jews in about 1570 C.E. This is our modern "Wailing Wall." But in order to semi-justify their selection, present day Jews are prone to mix up the two earlier accounts and erroneously to confuse them with events surrounding their present "Wailing Wall" that is located north of Robinson’s arch.
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