Israel Antiquities Authority conservator: The non-invasive measures are protecting the Western Wall from the ravages of time.
Pre-Passover conservation work began at the Western Wall during this latest lockdown using injections with the aid of syringes very similar to those used by medical staff.
Every six months, before Passover and the High Holy Days, Western Wall Heritage Foundation engineers and Israel Antiquities Authority conservators conduct thorough inspections of the 2,000-year-old Western Wall stones at the prayer plaza to ensure visitors’ safety.
The work being carried out at the site is subject to religious strictures established by the rabbi of the Western Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, after consultations with great rabbis of the time, nearly eighteen years ago, particularly Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv.
Mordechai (Suli) Eliav, director of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, says, “Over 12 million people visit the Western Wall Plaza each year. Although this year, in the shadow of Covid-19, people are increasingly ‘visiting’ the Western Wall virtually , we are already preparing for the return of visitors to the Wall. The Western Wall Heritage Foundation is making every endeavor to preserve the Wall’s ancient stones and ensure its stability for the safety of worshipers and visitors.”
According to Yossi Vaknin, head conservator for the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Western Wall area, “The Wall’s 2,000-year-old stones are subject to natural weathering and we are making sure to strengthen them. Our routine biannual inspections enable us to track the condition of every single stone. We have an ‘identity card’ for each of the hundreds of stones in the plaza and monitor dozens of features. Our most recent survey revealed that it was necessary to treat the ‘peel’, or outer layer, of several stones. Our work on the historic wall is nondestructive. We do not drill into the stone, but delicately inject dissolved stone into the gaps and fissures. limestone-based grout is injected into the fissure as a liquid, and when dry, the crack is repaired. It is the best possible method of ‘healing’ the stones and the ultimate defense against weathering for the most important stones in the world.”
One of the main contributors to the weathering of the Temple Mount’s walls is the ecosystem that forms an integral part of the landscape of the ancient Western Wall. “The Western Wall is a unique ecological environment that supports its own life forms,” says Vaknin. “A lot of plants have taken root in the Wall’s stones – particularly thorny capers, golden drops and golden henbanes. Added to this, many birds nest in the Wall, including the common swift which arrives every year, ravens, and doves. As part of our conservation work, in recognition of the importance of the site’s unique flora and fauna, we also preserve this ecosystem while guaranteeing the stones’ stability, thus ensuring that the Western Wall will remain strong for at least 2,000 more years.”