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In Pictures
In Pictures: Exploring the Western Wall
Tunnels 15 metres beneath Jerusalem's Old City threaten to penetrate the Temple Mount, home to the Al Aqsa mosque.
Last Modified: 03 Nov 2012 13:49

In the heart of Jerusalem's Old City - the centre of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and much of the Arab world at large - lie the Western Wall tunnels.

Located 15 metres underground and running the length of almost half a kilometre, the tunnels are adjacent to the ancient Noble Sanctuary, also known as the Temple Mount, and home to Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. It is considered one of the three holiest sites in Islam.

While Israeli tours visit the site daily, a Palestinian-led tour offered by the Centre for Jerusalem Studies may only visit the Western Wall tunnels once each month.

Israeli archaeologists maintain that the Noble Sanctuary stands on top of the remains of the Second Temple, a sacred site in Judaism, believed to be a figurative "footstool" for God's presence.

Some Jewish people believe that the mission of Zionism will not be complete until a Third Temple has been built, and attempts have been made over the centuries to damage the Islamic sites. Excavations in the area have been carried out since digs were led by the British military in the 1970s, in a bid to find the Ark of the Covenant, a long-lost relic said to contain the Ten Commandments.

Some Palestinians view the archaeological claims, as well as the Jewish-led tours, as an excuse to bolster Israeli claims to the area and continue the segregation of the Palestinians.

At the depths of the tunnel lies the Western Stone, one of the largest stone blocks used for construction anywhere in the world. Israeli archaeologists say it is the rampart wall of the Second Temple, but tour guide Abu Shamsie claims there is no direct proof of this.

"The stone was never cited in any descriptions in ancient literature. It could have easily been a part of other giant structures known to exist at the time, like a hippodrome or amphitheatre," he said.

According to the tour guide, no archaeological claim is certain in the tunnels. There are ancient pools said to have been used for ritual purification, and ancient archways thought to have supported an elevated road up to the Second Temple's main entrance.

An elaborate model has been constructed to show visitors what Israeli archaeologists believe the Second Temple to have looked like.

Text written by James Knoop, a journalist with Palestine Monitor based in Ramallah, West Bank.

Lazar Simeonov is a freelance photographer based in Ramallah, West Bank. You can visit his website here.


Lazar Simeonov /Al Jazeera
The Dome of the Rock on the night of Laylat al-Qadr, which celebrates the anniversary when the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad.


Lazar Simeonov /Al Jazeera
The Western Wall on the night of Jerusalem Day, an Israeli national holiday that commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City in June 1967.


Lazar Simeonov /Al Jazeera
Muslim worshippers pray in front of the Al Aqsa Mosque on the night of Laylat al-Qadr.


Lazar Simeonov /Al Jazeera
Abu Shamsie, a tour guide from the Centre for Jerusalem Studies, explains the topography of the Western Wall tunnels.


Lazar Simeonov /Al Jazeera
An example of the brickwork that was excavated shows off the different time periods of construction from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Ummayad, Abbasid, Crusader, Mamluk and Ottoman eras.


Lazar Simeonov /Al Jazeera
Archaeologists have dug some 15 metres deep, reaching the foundation stones supporting the Western Wall.


Lazar Simeonov /Al Jazeera
A large hall shows the most recent Israeli archeological excavations.


Lazar Simeonov /Al Jazeera
A group of visitors inside the Herodian Hall, a magnificently carved public room demonstrating the architectural techniques from 2000 years ago.


Lazar Simeonov /Al Jazeera
A large column discovered in the Herodian Hall.


Lazar Simeonov /Al Jazeera
The prayers of Jewish worshippers are written on paper and left inside the notches of the largest stone in the Western Wall.


Lazar Simeonov /Al Jazeera
The Western Stone - the largest stone of the Western Wall - is 13.6 metres long, 3.3 metres wide, and is estimated to weigh 570 tonnes.


Lazar Simeonov /Al Jazeera
Jewish worshippers pray in the tunnel at the closest physical point to the Holy of Holies, a sacred room in the ancient temple that once housed the Ark of the Covenant.


Lazar Simeonov /Al Jazeera
Israeli archeological excavations inside the tunnels are ongoing.


Lazar Simeonov /Al Jazeera
Concrete supports reinforce the ancient streets of the Muslim Quarter in the narrowest part of the passage.


Lazar Simeonov /Al Jazeera
The Struthion Pool is at the end of the tunnel. In 1996, the creation of an exit from the Pool to the Via Dolorosa, underneath a madrasa in the Muslim Quarter, sparked riots.



images:
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captions:
The Dome of the Rock on the night of Laylat al-Qadr, which celebrates the anniversary when the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad.;*;The Western Wall on the night of Jerusalem Day, an Israeli national holiday that commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City in June 1967.;*;Muslim worshippers pray in front of the Al Aqsa Mosque on the night of Laylat al-Qadr.;*;Abu Shamsie, a tour guide from the Centre for Jerusalem Studies, explains the topography of the Western Wall tunnels.;*;An example of the brickwork that was excavated shows off the different time periods of construction from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Ummayad, Abbasid, Crusader, Mamluk and Ottoman eras. ;*;Archaeologists have dug some 15 metres deep, reaching the foundation stones supporting the Western Wall.;*;A large hall shows the most recent Israeli archeological excavations.;*;A group of visitors inside the Herodian Hall, a magnificently carved public room demonstrating the architectural techniques from 2000 years ago.;*;A large column discovered in the Herodian Hall.;*;The prayers of Jewish worshippers are written on paper and left inside the notches of the largest stone in the Western Wall.;*;The Western Stone - the largest stone of the Western Wall - is 13.6 metres long, 3.3 metres wide, and is estimated to weigh 570 tonnes.;*;Jewish worshippers pray in the tunnel at the closest physical point to the Holy of Holies, a sacred room in the ancient temple that once housed the Ark of the Covenant.;*;Israeli archeological excavations inside the tunnels are ongoing.;*;Concrete supports reinforce the ancient streets of the Muslim Quarter in the narrowest part of the passage.;*;The Struthion Pool is at the end of the tunnel. In 1996, the creation of an exit from the Pool to the Via Dolorosa, underneath a madrasa in the Muslim Quarter, sparked riots. Daylife ID:
1351604250622
Photographer:
Lazar Simeonov ;*;Lazar Simeonov ;*;Lazar Simeonov ;*;Lazar Simeonov ;*;Lazar Simeonov ;*;Lazar Simeonov ;*;Lazar Simeonov ;*;Lazar Simeonov ;*;Lazar Simeonov ;*;Lazar Simeonov ;*;Lazar Simeonov ;*;Lazar Simeonov ;*;Lazar Simeonov ;*;Lazar Simeonov ;*;Lazar Simeonov
Image Source:
Al Jazeera ;*;Al Jazeera ;*;Al Jazeera ;*;Al Jazeera ;*;Al Jazeera ;*;Al Jazeera ;*;Al Jazeera ;*;Al Jazeera ;*;Al Jazeera ;*;Al Jazeera ;*;Al Jazeera ;*;Al Jazeera ;*;Al Jazeera ;*;Al Jazeera ;*;Al Jazeera
Gallery Source:
Daylife
Daylife Raw Data:
Western Wall Tunnelshttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnelsen-usAl Jazeerafeedback@daylife.com10Tue, 30 Oct 2012 13:37:31 GMTWed, 31 Oct 2012 11:18:42 GMT http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=0789cwWd3M4XKDome of the Rock on the night of Laylat al-Qadr, which celebrates the anniversary when the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad.Tue, 30 Oct 2012 13:38:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=0789cwWd3M4XKLazar Simeonov Al Jazeera Al Jazeera Upload ImagesDome of the Rock on the night of Laylat al-Qadr, which celebrates the anniversary when the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad. http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=07jA2A75yigoiThe Western Wall on the night of Jerusalem Day, an Israeli national holiday that commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City in June 1967.Tue, 30 Oct 2012 13:38:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=07jA2A75yigoiLazar Simeonov Al Jazeera Al Jazeera Upload ImagesThe Western Wall on the night of Jerusalem Day, an Israeli national holiday that commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City in June 1967. http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=0grn9t9dIg6phMuslim worshipers praying in front of the Al Aqsa Mosque on the night of Laylat al-Qadr.Tue, 30 Oct 2012 13:38:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=0grn9t9dIg6phLazar Simeonov Al Jazeera Al Jazeera Upload ImagesMuslim worshipers praying in front of the Al Aqsa Mosque on the night of Laylat al-Qadr. http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=036O5NGgkv2P1Abu Shamsie, a tour guide from the Centre for Jerusalem Studies, explaining the topography of the Western Wall tunnels.Tue, 30 Oct 2012 13:38:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=036O5NGgkv2P1Lazar Simeonov Al Jazeera Al Jazeera Upload ImagesAbu Shamsie, a tour guide from the Centre for Jerusalem Studies, explaining the topography of the Western Wall tunnels. http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=03FOaRGfUy3Q7An example of the brickwork that was excavated showing off the different time periods of construction from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Ummayad, Abbasid, Crusader, Mamluk and Ottoman eras. Tue, 30 Oct 2012 13:38:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=03FOaRGfUy3Q7Lazar Simeonov Al Jazeera Al Jazeera Upload ImagesAn example of the brickwork that was excavated showing off the different time periods of construction from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Ummayad, Abbasid, Crusader, Mamluk and Ottoman eras. http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=0fx4bQjbX11OhArchaeologists have dug some 15 meters deep reaching the foundation stones supporting the Western Wall.Tue, 30 Oct 2012 13:38:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=0fx4bQjbX11OhLazar Simeonov Al Jazeera Al Jazeera Upload ImagesArchaeologists have dug some 15 meters deep reaching the foundation stones supporting the Western Wall. http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=04sA6WjdW52B5The large hall where on the left you can see an open pit showing the ongoing Israeli archeological excavations.Tue, 30 Oct 2012 13:38:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=04sA6WjdW52B5Lazar Simeonov Al Jazeera Al Jazeera Upload ImagesThe large hall where on the left you can see an open pit showing the ongoing Israeli archeological excavations. http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=0g1p3dVbre0r4A group of visitors inside the Herodian Hall, a magnificently carved public room demonstrating the architectural techniques from 2000 years ago.Tue, 30 Oct 2012 13:39:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=0g1p3dVbre0r4Lazar Simeonov Al Jazeera Al Jazeera Upload ImagesA group of visitors inside the Herodian Hall, a magnificently carved public room demonstrating the architectural techniques from 2000 years ago. http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=0g8nfdv5Xc8XKA large column discovered in the Herodian Hall, a magnificently public room demonstrating the architectural techniques from 2000 years ago.Tue, 30 Oct 2012 13:39:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=0g8nfdv5Xc8XKLazar Simeonov Al Jazeera Al Jazeera Upload ImagesA large column discovered in the Herodian Hall, a magnificently public room demonstrating the architectural techniques from 2000 years ago. http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=0cNh6QMfFn40cThe prayers of Jewish worshipers scrolled on paper and left inside the notches of the the largest stone in the Western Wall.Tue, 30 Oct 2012 13:39:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=0cNh6QMfFn40cLazar Simeonov Al Jazeera Al Jazeera Upload ImagesThe prayers of Jewish worshipers scrolled on paper and left inside the notches of the the largest stone in the Western Wall. http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=02NGg7G3s5aTsThe Western Stone, the largest contiguous stone of the Western Wall that lies 13.6 meters long, 3.3 meters wide and is estimated to weigh 570 tons.Tue, 30 Oct 2012 13:39:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=02NGg7G3s5aTsLazar Simeonov Al Jazeera Al Jazeera Upload ImagesThe Western Stone, the largest contiguous stone of the Western Wall that lies 13.6 meters long, 3.3 meters wide and is estimated to weigh 570 tons. http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=0agYf4Hf8T6YeJewish worshipers praying in the tunnel at the closest physical point to the Holy of Holies, a sacred room in the ancient temple that housed the Ark of the Covenant and Ten Commandments.Tue, 30 Oct 2012 13:39:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=0agYf4Hf8T6YeLazar Simeonov Al Jazeera Al Jazeera Upload ImagesJewish worshipers praying in the tunnel at the closest physical point to the Holy of Holies, a sacred room in the ancient temple that housed the Ark of the Covenant and Ten Commandments. http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=00nKfqb4hW40zOngoing Israeli archeological excavations inside the tunnels. Tue, 30 Oct 2012 13:39:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=00nKfqb4hW40zLazar Simeonov Al Jazeera Al Jazeera Upload ImagesOngoing Israeli archeological excavations inside the tunnels. http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=06XJ1Sve9t1zDConcrete supports reinforcing the ancient streets of the Muslim Quarter in the narrowest part of the passage.Tue, 30 Oct 2012 13:39:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=06XJ1Sve9t1zDLazar Simeonov Al Jazeera Al Jazeera Upload ImagesConcrete supports reinforcing the ancient streets of the Muslim Quarter in the narrowest part of the passage. http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=0daW4Iw1tZ1hnThe Struthion Pool at the end of the tunnel, a proposed exit into the Convent of the Sisters of Zion started a riot in this contested area Tue, 30 Oct 2012 13:39:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Western-Wall-Tunnels?image_id=0daW4Iw1tZ1hnLazar Simeonov Al Jazeera Al Jazeera Upload ImagesThe Struthion Pool at the end of the tunnel, a proposed exit into the Convent of the Sisters of Zion started a riot in this contested area

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