Contrary to some panicky reports, the Western Wall has not collapsed - but the hill jutting out from it under the Mughrabim Gate is another story. Apparently due to the earthquake last week, together with the snow, seeping water and unstable mud, the hill - or its buttressing wall - began to collapse this past Saturday night during the snowstorm.
The women's section of the Western Wall plaza, just to the left and below the hill, has been closed until further notice. Another area of the Kotel has been "granted" to the women worshippers for the duration.
A large crane was at the site this morning, delicately taking apart the top part of the hill's supporting wall. Arutz-7, speaking with the crane operator at the site, learned that he had taken apart the wall to the left of the Mughrabim Gate, but could not continue taking down the lower levels of the wall, "because behind it is earth and the whole thing would collapse." The crane left the site around noon.
The photograph below shows the Mughrabim Gate to the right and above the Western Wall plaza. The wall (at the left of the photo) was dismantled today.
For an on-the-spot look at the Western Wall, see Arutz-7's Kotel Camera.
The Mughrabim Gate is located atop the Western Wall, to the right of the main worshipers' area. Visitors to the Temple Mount have traditionally entered through it, but Rabbi Yosef Elboim, a frequent visitor to the Western Wall and Temple Mount, told Arutz-7 today that the Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount are now being routed through the Shalshelet (Chain) Gate, located alongside the Kotel some 100 meters to the north (left) of the Western Wall plaza and not visible from there). "I am happy that the closing of the Mughrabim Gate was not used as an excuse to prevent Jews from visiting the Temple Mount," he said, but added that this is only a partial solution, and demands, for Halakhic [Jewish legal] reasons, that the Temple Mount's Tribes Gate, near Lions Gate, be opened to Jewish visitors.
On the other hand, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, Rabbi of the Western Wall, told Arutz-7 today that the Halakhic ban on entry to the Temple Mount remains in effect. "There are some rabbis who feel that the southern portion of the Mount is not forbidden," he explained, "but over the years many great rabbis have banned, and continue to ban, all entry - for fear that many Jews will not know where they may walk and will thus violate a very grave Biblical prohibition."
Rabbi Elboim explained that the hill to the right of the women's section is an old one, "built of layer upon layer of old buildings. Of late, the authorities have tried to refurbish the entrance to the Temple Mount, but apparently the construction, together with the earthquake and the snow, rocked the foundations and it began to fall apart."