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Is the kotel a safe place to pray?

A large chunk of stone dislodged from the Western Wall at the mixed-gender prayer section in Jerusalem, Israel, July 23, 2018. Photo courtesy of Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

NEW YORK CITY JITA) – After a large stone fell from the Western Wall on Monday, July 23, an Israeli archaeologist declared the holy site’s entire plaza a “danger zone.”

Other stones “could immediately fall” and hurt people, Zachi Dvira told The Times of Israel. He is completing a doctorate on the archaeology of the Temple Mount.

The boulder that fell Monday morning, at one of the sight’s areas designated for egalitarian mixed prayer weighed about 220 pounds, according to Israel Radio. It missed all onlookers but landed close to a female worshiper.

“I didn’t hear or feel anything until it landed right at my feet,” Daniella Goldberg, 79, told Hadashot TV news. She said that she “tried not to let the incident distract me from my prayers.”

Israel “doesn’t do proper preservation [of the site] because of politics,” Dvira said, arguing that the controversy surrounding the egalitarian prayer area has prevented the proper upkeep.

While the egalitarian section has been closed since the incident, he believes visitors should stand a few feet back from the wall in all of its sections, for safety reasons. He noted that several rocks from the Temple Mount’s other three supporting walls have fallen in recent years. The rock that fell Monday was broken in two from moisture created by the plants in the wall.

“It’s a matter of life or death,” he said.

In 2004, large pieces of Western Wall stone fell during Yom Kippur, injuring one worshiper.

At press time Teams from the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Western Wall Heritage Foundation planned to move the stone that became detached from the Western Wall near Robinson’s Arch and conduct tests to determine if the stone may be returned to its place.



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