Religious Affairs Ministry to Clean Up Kotel Katan
Mati Dan, chairman of the Ateret Cohanim organization, said in an interview with Arutz Sheva that the Religious Affairs Ministry was taking responsibility for the “Kotel Katan,” the Small Western Wall that is an extension of the Western Wall that is accessible through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. According to Dan, the decision was made on Monday, the eve of the Fast of the 9th of Av.
“After a year of discussions on who will take responsibility for this site, the Knesset Interior Committee, chaired by MK Miri Regev, managed to get the government to take charge,” said Dan. “This is in line with the laws regarding the administration of holy places, which is the Ministry's responsibility.”
The Western Wall is a supporting wall of the Temple Mount complex, on which the two Holy Temples were built approximately 2,850 and 2,350 years ago, respectively. Though it is technically outside the Temple area, it has special sanctity; the rabbinic Sages taught that the Divine Presence would never leave the Western Wall.
Of the nearly 500 meters of length of the Western Wall, roughly 200 meters of the southern end [to the right of the worshipers] are easily accessible today - but the remainder is just as sacred. Another 100 meters or so are included in a tour of the Western Wall Tunnels. Above these tunnels, near the Iron Gate entrance to the Temple Mount and on Temple Mount floor level, is an open area facing a short segment of the Wall. This is the area known as the Kotel HaKatan.
Though it is off the beaten track, the Kotel HaKatan is actually slightly more holy than the familiar Western Wall plaza, because of its closer proximity to the Holy of Holies of the ancient Temples. However, one would not know this upon visiting it - for it is hard to get to, has no trappings of a holy site, and is not even protected 24 hours a day.
That will all change now, said Dan. “I am hopeful that changes will begin to take place in the coming days,” Dan said.
After a tour of the site last month, Regev demanded that the site be upgraded and that concrete pilings and construction trash that have been eyesores over the years – after having been placed at the site in 1972, during a previous attenpted upgrade effort – be removed. Dan said that the pilings were placed at the city by the municipality at the advice of engineer in 172s, who feared that an adjacent house would collapse. Today, however, that fear has been lifted. One of the several pilings place there has been removed, with no ill effect. “There is a great deal of leftover building materials that has been here for years, but police do not allow their removal,” he said.
“This area must be cleaned up and people must be given free access to it,” Regev said, adding that she had spoken with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who had agreed to remove the pilings.