The day we visited the Western Wall, and surrounding heat-radiating stone Plaza, it was in the high 90's, so we struck out early to beat the heat. Julie, my sister-in-law, and I entered the Women's side while Ron visited the Men's side.
Also known as the Wailing Wall or Kotel, my first time visiting in 2002, I stood with my face only an inch from the stones, fervently in prayer, when I felt a plop on my head. Feeling the area with my fingers, I realized a bird had pooped in my hair. Apparently, this is considered to be good luck. Daring to look up I realized I stood directly underneath the little bushes growing from the cracks in the wall above me and saw the guilty little culprits flitting between them.
Oh well, luck schmuck! I was back for the third time, who cares about a little poop!
This time I stood back a distance, both in the physical and the mental, drawing forth memories of my previous trips. I gazed up at the details of the chiseled stones and tried to imagine the incredible strength and skill needed to erect such a magnificent structure.
Looking around I saw women, young and old, prayer books in hand, some heads covered, some not, praying and bowing, some at the Wall weeping, kissing and placing their hands upon it. Others standing at various distances away.
All seem to bless and amplify the personal prayers written on thousands of little bits of paper folded and slipped into cracks and crevices between the stones. The fervent, and sometimes wailing, prayers of restoration for the Temple and peace in the land continue. Continue until the Lord answers and returns.
As the last remnant of the First and Second Temples, this portion actually forms what is, today, called the Temple Mount, which dates back thousands of years. It is considered to be the most significant site to the Jewish people in our modern day and is highly cherished.
Thousands of people from around the world visit each year, and thousands more during the Holy Festivals. All converge at The Western Wall Plaza, the large gathering area next to the Wall itself.
Families come to celebrate major life events like their children's bar- and bat-mitzvahs; newlyweds take wedding photos; holy days are celebrated; and those who mourn come to pour out their prayers and tears before the Lord. It is always open, 24/7, at no charge for anyone desiring to come.
There are web-cams installed along the buildings toward the west that broadcast continually, showing a couple different views of the Wall and Plaza, and one that broadcasts from Wilson's Arch. Don't forget to stand in the middle of the Plaza to wave and blow kisses to family and friends watching from home.
Surrounding the Western Wall, there are numerous other popular sites to visit. Tours are offered through archeological diggings, tunnels along the exterior and many more. See this website for tours, camera information and other valuable information: http://english.thekotel.org/kotel/general_info/
Access can be found through the Dung Gate, off of Ma'ale Ha'Shalom Street, at the southern end of the Old City, which is one of the entrances to the Old City.
Or, from the direction of Hurva Square in the Jewish Quarter, walk down Tiferet Yisrael St. past the falafels and shawarmas in the food court, antiques shops and gifts shops, then past the huge golden Menorah near the Temple Institute. Follow the many steps down, stopping at the top to take in the amazing view, then on to the Western Wall Plaza. Be prepared to pass through a security point.
This is definitely a place to take your time, soak up and observe the activity around you and then offer your own prayers up to the God of Israel.