The Western Wall, Wailing Wall or Kotel, is found in Jerusalem’s Old City, at the disputed western side of the ancient Temple Mount site. It is a remnant of the buttress of the ancient wall which once surrounded the Jewish Temple’s courtyard. For this, it is one of the most sacred sites in Judaism, that is, beside for the Temple Mount itself. More than half the wall, including the seventeen paths found underneath the ancient street level, dates from the later era of the Second Temple. It was built around 19 B.C. by King Herod the Great. The layers that remained were added from the seventh century on wards. Not only does the name, Western Wall, refer to the exposed section facing a large plaza in the Jewish Quarter, but also to the concealed sections behind the structures running along the whole length of the Temple Mount.
For centuries, the Wailing Wall has been the site of Jewish pilgrimage and prayer. The earliest source mentioning Jewish attachment to the site dating from the 4th century. From the middle of the 19th century and on wards, efforts to buy the wall and its immediate area were made several times by various wealthy Jews and Jewish organizations, although, alas none were actually successful.
Then, in the early 20th-century, with the rise of the modern Zionist movement, the wall turned into a source of friction for the Jewish community and the religious Muslim leadership, who were concerned that the wall was being used to further the push for Jewish nationalism to the Temple Mount and to Jerusalem. As a sad result of these Muslim concerns about Jewish statehood, outbreaks of violence at the foot of the wall were commonplace and an international commission convened in the year 1930 to determine the claims and the rights of Jews and Muslims in connection with the wall. Then, after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War the wall fell under Jordanian control and Jews were barred from the site for nineteen tragic years until Israel captured the Old City in 1967, when provoked by rocket and missile attacks by the Jordanian army.
Certainly there are ancient Jewish texts that seem to refer to a “western wall of the Temple”, however there is much doubt whether these texts were referring to today’s Western Wall or to another wall that stood within the Temple complex. The earliest use of the term Western Wall in terms of the wall that is actually visible today was by the 11th-century Ahimaaz ben Paltiel. The name “Wailing Wall”, and certain descriptions such as “wailing place” appeared in English literature during the 19th century. It was known as Mur des Lamentations in French and Klagemauer in German. The term itself was actually a translation of the Arabic term, el-Mabka, or “Place of Weeping.”