Inspectors completed a biannual safety inspection and maintenance of the Western Wall on Wednesday, with rabbis overseeing the preservation of corroding stone.

The Western Wall stones, portions of Wilson’s Arch, and the wall of the Makhama building were cleaned and loose rock and debris was removed, according to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.

“During the recent pre-Passover inspection, a greater than normal amount of stone and plaster particles was removed from between the stones,” it said in a statement.

Under the supervision of Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, experts also doused the stones in a material to prevent peeling — a process the organization said was done in accordance with Jewish law. 

“This year, many ‘husks’ were removed.  In order to solve this, the preservation experts soak the peeling stone in binding materials based on natural lime (the stone’s consolidation). This strengthens the layers and stops the peeling,” it said.

Next week, prayer notes will be cleared from the wall.

Daniella Goldberg stands later on Monday, July 23, 2018, at the site where a large chunk of stone dislodged from the Western Wall in Jerusalem Old City that day, at the mixed-gender prayer section. The boulder fell close to where she was praying. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Last July, a large boulder from the Western Wall was dislodged from the ancient structure, tumbling down onto an egalitarian prayer platform. There were no injuries in the incident near Robinson’s Arch, south of the main prayer plaza, but the rock landed very close to a female worshiper. It damaged the platform where she was praying.

An archaeologist who visited the site later that day warned that the entire Western Wall was a “danger zone,” and said the public should stay away. Zachi Dvira said he noted multiple cracks in other stones and feared that another stone fall was just a matter of time. Other stones “could immediately fall on the heads of people,” said Dvira, who is completing a PhD on the recorded archaeology of the Temple Mount. 

At the time, the Israel Antiquities Authority said there were a number of possibilities that may have led to the stone’s fall, such as vegetation growing in the wall’s cracks, or entrapped moisture that may have led to the stone’s wear. There is also the possibility of a still unknown engineering failure.

Daniella Goldberg (left), with Culture Minister Miri Regev, inspects the damage caused by a large stone that dislodged from the Western Wall in Jerusalem Old City on July 23, 2013, at the mixed-gender prayer section. The boulder fell close to where Goldberg was praying. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In a notable case in 2004, large pieces of Western Wall stone fell in the mainstream prayer plaza — slightly injuring a worshiper on Yom Kippur — due to erosion caused by foreign metal objects inserted into the wall’s cracks by birds.

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Date published: 11/04/2019
Written by: TOI STAFFAmanda Borschel-Dan contributed to this report.
Feature image: A Western Wall safety inspection on April 3, 2019 (Western Wall Heritage Foundation)
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