“The Western Wall Heritage Foundation” is a governmental body established by the Ministry of Religion in 5748 (1988) to cultivate, develop and preserve the Kotel (Western Wall) and its tunnels.
The goal of the Foundation is to make the Western Wall – a remnant of our Holy Temple – a source of inspiration for multitudes of Jews, stemming from the desire to deepen and strengthen their connection to it, and to have it serve as a means of restoring past glory by consolidating the spiritual, moral, and national character of the Jewish people.
Immediately after the Six-Day War in June, 1967, the Ministry of Religion began the project of exposing the Western Wall, a complicated archaeological project whereby the digging was carried out under a residential neighborhood that had been built right up against the Wall. The excavation took over 20 years under very difficult conditions while archaeological finds that can only be described as ‘awesome’ were uncovered.
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation was assigned the task of continuing this project and bringing it to the world.
With painstaking care, taking various religious, tourist, archaeological, security and other considerations into account, and with Halachic (religious law) and scientific oversight, the Foundation continued with the excavation project, centimeter by centimeter, in order to uncover Jerusalem in all its former glory. Beautiful ornaments were found – archaeological finds that were hugely important in understanding the city’s history. And a “time tunnel” was created taking us back into Jerusalem’s glory days.
Opening the Western Wall Tunnels to the general public meant dealing with a variety of complicated engineering and safety issues: dealing with sewage; preparing pedestrian walkways and accessible handicapped paths; installing air-conditioning, signage, and lighting; training of guides; establishing a reservations system; and creating efficient maintenance systems.
Today, the Western Wall Tunnels site is a sophisticated tourist site that attracts hundreds of visitors a day, with more than 4 million visitors since its opening. In fact, this is one of the most amazing tourist sites in Jerusalem and perhaps in the entire country.
In addition to working on developing the Western Wall Tunnels, the Foundation has continued developing the Western Wall Plaza. This includes new flooring for the Upper Plaza and the Prayer Plaza, building restrooms, preparing a proper area for public transportation and parking in the Kotel area, signage and lighting, improving the security system, security fences and booths, organizing escape/rescue routes from the Plaza, setting up a communication system, and more. All this was done in coordination with various related governmental offices, such as the Ministries of Tourism, Internal Security and Transportation, the Jerusalem Municipality, and more.
In addition to the above, the Foundation is very active in education. It organizes Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremonies and tours for various sectors, encourages visits by soldiers, tourists, students, families and more. The Foundation has made its guides available to visitors. Of late, the Foundation has been involved in building The Western Wall Heritage Center, an educational and information center, all of which will together become an educational compound that will embed in its visitors the heritage of the Western Wall.