The Western Wall Tunnel (Hebrew: מנהרת הכותל, translit.: Minheret Hakotel) is an
underground tunnel exposing the Western Wall in its full length. The tunnel is adjacent
to the Western Wall and is located under buildings of the Old City of Jerusalem,
Israel. While the open-air portion of the Western Wall is approximately 60 m long, the
majority of its original length is hidden underground. The tunnel allows access to an
additional 485 meters of the wall.
Main article: Western Wall
In 19 CE, King Herod undertook a project to double the area of the Temple Mount in
Jerusalem by incorporating part of the hill on the Northwest. In order to do so, four
retaining walls were constructed, and the Temple Mount was expanded on top of them.
These retaining walls remained standing, along with the platform itself, after the
Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE; but since then much of the area next to
them became covered and built upon. Part of the Western Wall remained exposed after
the destruction of the Temple; since it was the closest area to the Temple’s Holy of
Holies that remained accessible, it became a place of Jewish prayer for millennia.
Concrete supports are used to reinforce the ancient streets above in Jerusalem's Muslim
Quarter. At the end of this tunnel is the northern exit, which alleviated the need for
turning around at the far end and having two-way traffic flow in the narrow corridor.
British researchers started excavating the Western Wall in the mid 19th century.
Charles Wilson in 1864 followed by Charles Warren in 1867-70. Wilson discovered an arch
"Wilson’s Arch" which was 12.8 meters wide and is above present-day ground level. It is
believed that the arch supported a bridge which connected the Temple Mount to the city
during the Second Temple Period. Warren dug shafts through Wilson’s Arch which are
still visible today.
After the Six Day War, the Ministry of Religious Affairs of Israel began the
excavations aimed at exposing the continuation of the Western Wall. The excavations
lasted almost twenty years and revealed many previously unknown facts about the history
and geography of the Temple Mount. The excavations were difficult to conduct, as the
tunnels ran below residential neighborhoods constructed on top of ancient structures
from the Second Temple Period. The excavations were conducted with the supervision of
scientific and rabbinc experts. This was to ensure both the stability of the structures
above and to prevent damaging the historic artifacts. In 1988 the Western Wall
Heritage Foundation was formed, it took over the excavation, maintenance and
renovations of the Western Wall and Western Wall Plaza.
The tunnel exposes a total length of 485 m of the wall, revealing the methods of
construction and the various activities in the vicinity of the Temple Mount. The
excavations included many archaeological finds along the way, including discoveries
from the Herodian period (streets, monumental masonry), sections of a reconstruction of
the Western Wall dating to the Umayyad period, and various structures dating to the
Ayyubid, Mamluke and Hasmonean periods constructed to support buildings in the vicinity
of the Temple Mount.
"Warren's Gate" lies about 150 feet into the tunnel. This sealed-off entrance has been
turned into a small synagogue called "The Cave", by Rabbi Yehuda Getz, since it is the
closest point a Jew can get to the Holy of Holies, assuming it was located at the
traditional site under the Dome of the Rock.
At the northern portion of the Western Wall, remains of a water channel, which
originally supplied water to the Temple Mount, were found. The exact source of the
channel is unknown, though it passes through an underground pool known as the
"Strouthion Pool". The water channel was dated to the Hasmonean period and was
accordingly dubbed the "Hasmonean Channel".
The biggest stone in the Western Wall often called the Western Stone is also revealed
within the tunnel and ranks as one of the heaviest objects ever lifted by human beings
without powered machinery. The stone has a length of 13.6 meters and an estimated width
of between 3.5 and 4.5 meters; estimates place its weight at 570 short tons.
Adjacent to the tunnel lies a museum called "The Chain of Generations Center," designed
by Eliav Nahlieli. The impressive site, which incorporates ancient and modern Jewish
history, includes an elaborate audiovisual show, and nine magnificent glass sculptures
created by glass artist Jeremy Langford.
In 2007 the Israel Antiquities Authority uncovered an ancient Roman street, thought to
be from the second to fourth centuries. It was a side street which likely connected two
major roads, and led up to the Temple Mount. The discovery of the road gave further
evidence that Romans continued to use the Temple Mount after the destruction of the
temple in 70 CE.
Strouthion Pool --
Struthion Pool is a large cuboid cistern, which gathered the rainwater from guttering
on the Forum buildings. Prior to Hadrian, this cistern had been an open-air pool, but
Hadrian added arch vaulting to enable the pavement to be placed over it. The existence
of the pool in the first century is attested by Josephus, who reports that it was
called Struthius (literally meaning sparrow). This Struthion Pool was originally
built as part of an open-air water conduit by the Hasmoneans, which has since been
enclosed; the source of the water for this conduit is currently unidentified.
As a result of 1971 extensions to the original Western Wall Tunnel, the Hasmonean water
system became linked to the end of the Western Wall Tunnel; although they run under
Arab housing, and later opened as a tourist attraction. The attraction has a linear
route, starting at the Western Wall Plaza, passing through the modern tunnels, then the
ancient water system, and ending at the Strouthion Pool; as the Sisters of Zion were
not willing to allow tourists to exit into the Convent of the Sisters of Zion via the
Strouthion Pool, tourists had to return through the narrow tunnels to their starting
point, creating logistical issues.
The northern exit and riots --
Originally, tourists in the tunnel had to retrace their steps back to the entrance. A
connection to the Hasmonean water system was made, but this still required tourists to
eventually make a U-turn once they had reached the Strouthion Pool.
Digging an alternative exit from the tunnel was proposed, but initially rejected on the
grounds that any exit would be seen as an attempt by the Jewish authorities to stake a
claim to ownership of the nearby land - part of the Muslim Quarter of the city; in
1996, however, Benjamin Netanyahu organised the blasting open of an exit into the
grounds of the Ummariya madrasah, adjacent to the Via Dolorosa. Over the subsequent few
weeks, 80 people had been killed as a result of riots against the creation of the exit.
 A modern wall divides the Struthion pool into two parts, preventing access between
them; one side is visible from the western wall tunnels, the other is area accessible
from the Convent of the Sisters of Zion. Since then, it has been possible for large
numbers of tourists to enter the tunnel's southern entrance near the Western Wall, walk
the tunnel's length with a tour guide, and exit from the northern end.
If you would like to visit some of the places Jesus did when he was alive during your tour to the Holy Land, go to the Western Wall and the Western Wall Tunnel. The last remaining part of the Temple in Jerusalem that Jesus would have known, it was destroyed by the Romans about 2,000 years ago. Many visitors come here to pray following the example of King Solomon who asked God to hear everyone in this sacred place (1 Kings 8:41-43). The Western Wall Tunnel is the location of the rest of the 1,455 ft portion of the wall. There is a model there that shows the Passover pilgrimage that would have been taken by Jesus as a child (Luke 2:46). You can also the site where a beggar was healed by Peter (Acts 3:7) and where Jesus openly confronted money-changers and merchants (John 2:3-6 and Matt. 21:12-13)-stories to keep in mind on your Israel tour.
The tunnels of the Western Wall were created using side-by-side arches to support staircases that lead from the city to the Temple Mount.Tyropaean valley once ran along the western side of the Temple Mount, however, visitors on tours in Israel will notice it has been filled with the refuse from all of the demolition and rebuilding. This valley used to separate the Herodian quarter from the Temple and the arches were built to form a bridge between these two sites. Amazingly enough, these arches and pathways still support the modern streets and go right below the Muslim Quarter. One your pilgrimage to Israel, if you stop at the Western Wall Tunnel, you can see the pavement built by Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:21), the Holies of Holies and the foundation of the Praetorium (Matt. 27:27).
(America Israel Travel)