Most of the Kotel or Western Wall of the Temple Mount, which was roughly some 485 meters long, is obscured by the adjoining buildings. Until June 1967, however, the portion of the wall that was accessible was no longer than 28 meters. The aboveground portion of the Wall consisted of 24 rows of stones of various age and dressing. These stones reached the total height of 18 meters, with six meters above the Temple Mount level.
In year 1968 the ground in front of the Wall was finally excavated to reveal two of the buried rows of stone, and the Wall consisted of seven layers of gigantic, slightly dressed (Herod-era stones, also found at the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron), from the Second Temple, above which there are four layers of smaller and plain-dressed stones from either the Byzantine or Roman periods.
Since the year 132 CE when the Bar Kochva revolt was bitterly crushed by Roman Legions from Britain, the prayers of the Jews were directed at the site of the Temple’s ruins. Some seven-hundred years after the remaining Jews were finally exiled by the Crusading Christian Legions, in the 19th century, Jews in large numbers began returning to the land of Israel and to Jerusalem. The Jews of this era made many attempts to acquire sovereignty over the Western Wall; Sir Moses Montefiore tried to get permission to buy it, but failed. Then in 1887 Baron Rotschild offered to buy all of the Moghrabi Quarter, to resettle its residents and then have it demolished. These ideas never came to fruition.
From the time of the British Mandate after World War I on, clashes around the Kotel between Jews and Muslims were proverbial, heating up especially in December 1947, when Jews weren’t even allowed to approach the Western Wall.
After the acquiescence of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City in May 1948, Jews were prevented for nineteen years from even seeing, glancing at the Wall, even from a distance, as it came under Jordanian rule. All of this changed, however, in 1967, when the wall was liberated on the third day of the Six-Day war – that day was June 7, 1967: the Moghrabi quarter was demolished right away, and on the first day of Shavuot, a quarter Million Jews came to the place in celebration.
Next the buildings placed against the Wall in its prolongation southward were detached. The whole area-cleared in front of the Western Wall was leveled and turned into a large paved open space. The lower square close to the Wall is considered to be the prayer area. Here one may find people studying or praying, either in groups or singly, day and night throughout the year.
The surface of the wall, from the pavement point up to the man’s height; varies by color and feels differently; it is polished by human hands which touched it in prayers through the centuries.