The length of the Western Retaining Wall is measured at 488 meters. 10% of the  accessible open space is known as the Kotel or the Wailing Wall, another 10% is currently part of the Archaeological Park and the remaining 80% is hidden underground.


The Second Jewish Revolt was extinguished in 73 CE when the Roman army captured the fortress of Masada originally built by Herod the Great. In the final act of defiance the defenders committed a mass suicide rather then be captured by Romans.


The two sacred tablets containing Laws that God gave to Moses were housed in a gold plated chest called The Ark of the Covenant. It was taken to Jerusalem by King David and was later placed in the Temple by King Solomon. Placed inside the Tabernacle within the Holy Temple, the Ark was seen only by the high priest on Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement.

 








































 

Robinson's Arch


Robinson's Arch is the name being used for the remains of the ancient arch which supported a huge stairway leading to the Temple Mount. It was built as part of major reconstruction projects initiated by Herod the Great in 26 BCE during what is known today is a Second Temple period. King Herod spared no funds in his quest to create the magnificent structure that became known for it's beauty and splendor far beyond the walls of Jerusalem.

Until Herod's time, Jerusalem was made up of the Temple Mount, City of David and Upper City. Herod erected the Second Wall around the Jerusalem and added many new structures within its bounds, but his major achievement was the dramatic expansion of the Temple Mount platform and significant upgrade of Holy Temple itself. According to Josephus, "In the eighteenth year of his reign, Herod started to enlarge and reconstruct the Temple at his own expense, which he knew would be his greatest enterprise."

Leading visitors to the newly renovated Temple was a monumental stairway located at the Southwestern corner of the Temple Mount. The base of the stairway was a large square structure made up of the several floors. At the top of the square the steps took a 90 degree turn to the right and onto even wider stairway which passed over the huge arch and then through the elaborate entrance led to the Temple Mount.

None of these facts were known until 1838 when Dr. Edward Robinson came to Jerusalem and was the first to study this area of the Old City. Dr. Robinson was an American evangelical missionary and a biblical scholar who has devoted his professional life to uncovering the geography of the Bible.

He suggested that a group of stones projecting from the rest of the southern section of the Western Wall was the remnants of the huge stone arch that supported the bridge over the Tyropoeon Valley which separated the Upper City from the Temple Mount. Today it's known as a Robinson's Arch, named after a man who discovered it.

Robinson's Arch

                                                                Robinson's Arch, Jerusalem 

From 1867 to 1870, Charles Warren, an officer with British Royal Engineers and a Biblical archaeologist in his own right, continued the research of the Temple Mount based on Dr. Robinson's bridge theory. He uncovered a 43 foot pier west of the wall and the remains of the arch. In architecture a pier refers to the pillar that provides an upright support for an arch or a roof. Warren theorized that the arch was just one of the row of several structures that supported the bridge. To validate that theory, he dug several shafts along the wall, but did not find any other piers.

The bridge over the valley theory was disproved during the 1968-1977 excavations conducted by renowned Israeli archaeologist Benjamin Mazar when he exposed a short section of the paved Herodian street. He also was able to confirm that the pier discovered by Charles Warren was in fact the support structure of a single great arch which in turn supported a stairway leading onto the Temple Mount. Some archaeologists believe that King Herod built the staircase as part of his renovations to the Second Temple in the late 1st century BCE. Others believe that staircase was added years later as the renovation works were an ongoing process.

Benjamin Mazar findings were reinforced by the large scale excavation that took place during 1994-1997 period by two well known Israeli archaeologists Ronny Reich and Ya’akov Billig. They worked in the pretty large area that covered the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount and went as far west as Mughrabi Gate also known as a Dung Gate. Continuing with the work of Benjamin Mazar they removed massive amounts of debris from later periods and cleared up almost 70 meters of the Herodian street that is currently part of the Archaeological park.

Between the street and the western wall of the Temple Mount, a row of vaults built of small stones was found. During the Second Temple heyday, those vaults housed small shops which opened onto the street and served the visitors who needed to exchange their money from Roman currency to shekels or Tyrian coins that were considered to be kosher. Some shops in the area sold sacrificial animals that were slaughtered and then burned on the altar by the priests in the name of the givers.

Only the ritually pure could enter the Temple Mount grounds so it was only logical that remnants of the large immersion bath called mikve in Hebrew, with both entrance and exit, was discovered in the vicinity of the Robinson's Arch. To keep the water clean, all along the Western Wall as well the southern slope of the Temple, an impressive network of drains was developed with a system of canals, channels and cisterns some of which are still visible today.

Just to imagine how much work went into these excavations, there is a picture taken in 1938 of the man sitting within the arm's length right below the Robinson's arch as back then it was situated right at the street level. Today one would need a very long ladder just to attempt to reach it.

The paving stones of the street are pretty large, reaching up to 3 meters in length and 1.5 meters in width. The marks of the ancient stonecutters tools are still visible and the stones show relatively little signs of wear and tear, indicating that after it's construction the street was not in use for a very long time.

Pile of huge stones laying on the top of the pavement along the Herodian street are the fallen remnants of the Second Temple destroyed by the Roman legions under the command of general and future emperor Titus in in 70 AD during their campaign to crush the Great Jewish revolt.

After entering Jerusalem the Roman soldiers began the methodical destruction of the city, starting with the Temple Mount. They dismantled the platform walls and the arch that supported the stairway hurling the huge stones down to the street below in the process. As if there was not enough destruction, they burned down every last remnant of the Temple, after looting all the valuables, in order to eradicate any signs of Jewish presence from the Holy City.

Today Robinson's Arch along with a paved Herodian street and other remains of the Second Temple are part of the Jerusalem Archaeological Park and Davidson center, which offers the visitors an in-depth introduction to the park exhibits through video and audio tools as well as real time virtual reality reconstruction of the Herodian Temple Mount complex.