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The Western Wall
The Western Wall or simply The Kotel, is a retaining wall in Jerusalem that dates from the time of the Jewish Second Temple. It is sometimes referred to as the Wailing Wall, referring to Jews mourning the destruction of the Temple. The Western Wall is part of the bigger religious site in the Old City of Jerusalem called Har ha-Bayit (the Temple Mount) to Jews and Christians, or Al-Haram al-Qudsi al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) to Muslims. The Western Wall is revered for its proximity to the sacred Holy of Holies on the Temple Mount, which is the Most Holy Place in Judaism. This means that for Jews the Western Wall is the holiest location that is currently generally accessible to the Jewish people for prayer. There is a small area below ground level, called "The Cave", in the Western Wall Tunnel, that is closest to the site of the Holy of Holies. However, as this area is not amenable to the large groups that frequent the wall, most people limit their visits to the outdoor plaza.
At any hour, Jewish men and women can be found praying at the wall, which is actually a large outdoor synagogue. As is traditional in Jewish synagogues, there are a number of holy arks containing Torah scrolls, tables for reading of the law and a mechitza, or divider, separating the men's and women's sections of the wall. Bar mitzvah celebrations are frequently held here and people of various ages travel from all over the world to have their ceremonies at the Kotel. It is also a tradition to deposit slips of paper with wishes or prayers on them in the crevices and crannies of the wall. Looking closely, one can see hundreds of tiny, folded papers stuffed inside every space that will hold them.
The Temple in Jerusalem was the most sacred building in Judaism. Herod the Great built vast retaining walls around Mount Moriah, expanding the small, quasi-natural plateau on which the First and Second Temples stood into the wide open spaces of the Temple Mount seen today.
Ari Synagogue
The Ari Synagogue is situated on Ohr ha-Chaim St. in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. It is named after Rabbi Isaac Luria, (1534-1572), who was known as the Ari (The Lion), an acronym for haEloqi Rabbeinu Yitzhak (the divine, our master, Isaac). He was a great kabbalist who founded a new school in Kabbalistic thought, known as the "System of the Ari" or "Lurianic kabbalah". According to tradition, it was in this building where Rabbi Isaac Luria was born and where he lived for 20 years. It is told that Eliyahu Ha-Navi was the godfather at his Brith.
The Beit El Synagogue
The Beit El Synagogue ("House of God" synagogue), also known as Midrash Hasidim (School of the Devout) and Yeshivat haMekubalim (Yeshiva of the Kabbalists) has been, and stays to this day, the center of kabbalistic study in Jerusalem for over 250 years.
The yeshiva was founded in 1737 by Rabbi Gedaliah Hayon, originally from Constantinople, for the study of kabbalah in the Holy City. In the 1740s a gifted young man named Shalom Mizrachi Sharabi arrived in Jerusalem from Yemen. He studied at Beit El and over time became an outstanding scholar and kabbalist. At the behest of Rabbi Hayon, he was appointed head of the yeshiva. Under Sharabi’s leadership the yeshiva grew and became one of the main yeshivas in Jerusalem.
The Belz Beis HaMedrash HaGadol
The Belz Beis HaMedrash HaGadol, (The Belz Great Synagogue), is the largest synagogue in Jerusalem. A multi-million construction project built by the Belz Hasidic Jews with philanthropic help from their supporters around the world.
Like the original synagogue of Belz which took 15 years to complete, the new Beis Hamedrash HaGadol that now dominates the northern Jerusalem skyline also took 15 years to construct and was dedicated in 2000. Its main sanctuary seats 6,000 worshippers. The ornate wooden ark, an item for the Guinness Book of Records, is 12 meters high and weighs 18 tons. The main sanctuary is used only on the Sabbath and holidays, weddings and Bar-Mitzvahs, while weekday services take place in the underlying smaller rooms of the complex.
The Four Sephardic Synagogues
The Four Sephardic Synagogues are located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. They form a complex which comprises of four adjoining synagogues which were built at different periods to accommodate the religious needs of the Sephardic community, each congregation practising a different rite.
In 1835 Muhammad Ali, viceroy of Egypt who ruled Jerusalem at the time, permitted the refurbishment of the synagogues which had been denied since their construction. At the entrance to the Istanbuli Synagogue is a plaque commemorating the restoration.
After the fall of the Jewish Quarter during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War the synagogues were burnt and desecrated and turned into horse stables. After the Six Day War the synagogues were restored by architect Dan Tanai.
The Great Synagogue of Jerusalem
The Great Synagogue of Jerusalem is located on 58 King George St. As early as 1923 the Chief Rabbi’s of Israel, Abraham Kook and Jacob Meir, mooted plans for a large central synagogue in Jerusalem. It was over 30 years later in 1958 when Heichal Shlomo, seat of the Israeli Rabbinate, was founded, that a small synagogue was established within the building. As time progressed and the need for more space grew, services were moved and held in the foyer of Heichal Shlomo. Soon afterwards, when the premises could not hold the number of worshippers attending, it was decided that a new, much larger synagogue be built.
The style of the building was modeled on the Jewish Temple which once stood in Jerusalem. The inauguration took place on Tu B'Av 1982. The sanctuary seats 850 men and 550 women.
A comprehensive private collection of mezuzah cases is on show inside the entrance hall.
The Hurva Synagogue
The Hurva Synagogue, located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, was Jerusalem's main synagogue from the 16th until the 20th century, when it was reduced to rubble by Jordanian soldiers during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
On February 15, 2007, during construction works, Rabbi Simcha HaCohen Kook, rabbi of Rehovot, was appointed as the rabbi of the new Hurva. A certificate of confirmation was singed by leading rabbis, including Yosef Sholom Eliashiv. Menachem Porush, who remembered the original building in its glory, mentioned how overjoyed he was to see the fulfillment of his dream which he had never given up on – the rebuilding of the Hurva.
The Menachem Zion Synagogue
The Menachem Zion Synagogue located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, was completed in 1837. Built by the Perushim, it was named after their leader Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Shklov and after the blessing of consolation recited on Tisha B'Av: "Blessed be He who consoles (menachem) Zion and rebuilds Jerusalem".
The Ohr ha-Chaim Synagogue
The Ohr ha-Chaim Synagogue is situated on Ohr ha-Chaim Street in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is located on the top floor of a building which also houses the Ari Synagogue and Old Yishuv Court Museum. It is named after Rabbi Chaim ibn Attar's Magnum opus, the Ohr ha-Chaim, a popular commentary on the Pentateuch.
Though the synagogue was founded by a kabbalist of Sephardic descent, the synagogue eventually came to serve the Ashkenazic community, headed by Rabbi Shlomo Rosenthal. When the Jewish Quarter fell to the Arab Legion during the in 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the synagogue was closed. It was reopened and refurbished after Israel captured the Old City in 1967.
The Ramban Synagogue
The Ramban Synagogue is the oldest active synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem. It was founded by Nahmanides (Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman, whose name is often abbreviated as Ramban) in 1267. The foundation of the building comprises vaults resting on Romanesque and Byzantine capitals. Along with the fact that there are no Gothic or Islamic architectural features, this suggests that the original building predates the Crusader period.
The synagogue is located three meters below street level, to comply with Muslim restrictions for Dhimmi houses of prayer not to be higher than mosques.
The Tzuf Dvash Synagogue
The Tzuf Dvash Synagogue is a Sephardic synagogue located at 15 Plugat HaKotel St. in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. It is named after Rabbi David ben Shimon, who arrived in the Land of Israel from Morocco in 1854 and founded Machane Yisrael, one of the first neighborhoods outside of the Old City walls.
During the 19th century, a greater number of Jews arrived in Jerusalem from the Maghreb countries. Through Ben Shimon's influence, the group broke off from the greater Sephardic community of Jerusalem and established the "Westerners' Synagogue" (as opposed to the eastern Mizrahi Jews) in 1860. The building also contained the community's Talmud Torah and an old age home.
In the 1948 war, the building was in the no-man's land between the Jordanian and Israeli posts. Though the building was looted, it remained standing. After the Six-Day War, the building was refurbished and in 1980 it was restored as a house of prayer.
Warren's Gate
Temple Mount cistern No. 30, an ancient entrance into the Temple platform known as "Warren's gate", lies about 150 feet into the Western Wall Tunnel. This sealed off entrance has been turned into a small synagogue by Rabbi Yehuda Getz since it is the closest point a Jew can get to the temples, assuming the temples were located at the traditional site, under the Dome of the Rock.
Warren's gate, with its vaulted 18 foot tunnel behind, is assumed to be the gate through which the Jewish Temple priests set out in order to immerse themselves on their way to the Holy of Holies.
*Info courtesy of Jerusalem Municipality

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