A trip to Jerusalem isn’t complete without a pilgrimage to the Western Wall. Here’s what you need to know before you go.
Step 1: Know its Hebrew name Know the Wall’s Hebrew name -- the Kotel, which simply means the Wall. This is what everyone in Israel calls it.
TIP: Don't call the site "The Wailing Wall." Many people find the term offensive.
Step 2: Understand its history Understand the history of the Western Wall. It’s located at the site of 2 ancient Jewish temples, both of which were destroyed -- the first by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and the second by the Romans in 70 CE. The Western Wall was built in approximately 20 BCE around the Second Temple.
Step 3: Know where it is Know where the Western Wall is located: in the Old City of Jerusalem at the foot of the Temple Mount. The area in front of the Wall, where visitors from around the world come to pray, is known as the Western Wall Plaza. It’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
TIP: Consider taking a Kotel tunnel tour, which takes you further along the wall than you’d otherwise be able to go.
Step 4: Dress properly Dress properly. Men must wear a hat or other head covering; those who don’t have one are provided a free skullcap, called a kippah. Women must wear clothing that covers their shoulders and knees; they can borrow shawls at the entrance if need be. Shorts and jeans are not appropriate for anyone.
Step 5: Behave appropriately Behave appropriately. Women are expected to pray in the section reserved for them, and are barred by law from reading aloud from the Torah and wearing prayer shawls. Smoking, picture-taking, and cellphone use is forbidden on Shabbat -- from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Pets are not allowed into the Western Wall Plaza.
Step 6: Leave a note Write a prayer on a tiny piece of paper and slip it into one of the Wall’s crevices; it’s a time-honored tradition. Because more than a million notes are left in the Wall each year, they’re collected twice a year and buried on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives.
FACT: People can e-mail and tweet notes to be placed in the Western Wall.