KotelIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Police data published Wednesday shows an estimated 10.5 million visits to the Kotel (Western Wall) in 2012. The numbers indicate a major boost in Kotel tourism compared to the year before.

The data includes regular worshipers and the many thousands who come for special prayer services on holidays as well as tourists and other visitors.

Police commanders said they will continue to make every effort to guarantee the safety of visitors to the Old City of Jerusalem and the Western Wall. They noted that police recently arrested several Arab youth suspected of attacking Jews in the area.

Last month Israel finally began a series of renovations to Kotel facilities. For years there was public demand to improve facilities, particularly the public bathrooms built many years ago when there were far fewer visitors.

Desire to renovate the facilities was met by strong opposition from Islamic groups and others who sought to avoid any Israeli development in the Kotel area. Islamic groups, and the Palestinian Authority, seek full control over the Old City, the Temple Mount and the Kotel, and have denied any Jewish connection to the holy site.

The PA has repeatedly accused Israel of attempting to collapse the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, and new renovations in the Kotel area often lead to new such claims.

In addition to doubling the size of the public restrooms, the repairs will add a covered waiting area for visitors to the Kotel tunnels and additional rooms for Kotel staff. Work at the site is expected to be completed within a year.