Sunday, April 27, 2008

More Humpty-Dumpty

Jerusalem's Wailing Wall at risk of collapse a portion of one of Judaism's holiest sites, Jerusalem's Western Wall, is crumbling.

The rabbi charged with watching over the structure, which the faith believes to be the last remnants of a retaining wall from the ancient Second Temple, has warned that a section repaired more than a century ago is again at risk of falling.

"We found that the stones at the bottom of the wall, the stones from the Second Temple period, were strong and stable," said Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch. "However, we discovered that there are problems with the smaller stones, those at the top of the wall."

...Along with the massive stones commissioned by Herod, the wall contains stones placed by the Umayyad dynasty in an eighth-century restoration. But the section crumbling is at the very top, where a series of smaller, uniformly sized stones were added in the 1800s under the financing and supervision of British financier and philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore...

Israel's Antiquities Authority has said there is no immediate risk to visitors, since the heavy winter rains have passed. But the repair work is to begin almost immediately...The repair will be a delicate operation: Jewish religious law forbids the removing of any stone from the wall, and rabbis are divided over who is even permitted to carry out such work.

Traditionally, Jews are forbidden to set foot on the ancient site of what they believe to be the Temple Mount, so the rabbi said much of the work would have to be conducted using cranes rather than scaffolding. Jewish workers on the project will also have to undergo ritual baths.

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