A massive boulder that was part of the Western Wall suddenly became dislodged on Monday morning and fell onto a platform used for egalitarian prayers. No injuries were reported though one woman is seen in a video standing very near to where the boulder fell. Israel Radio reported that the stone weighed about 220 pounds.
Police closed off the area, known as the Robinson’s Arch platform, which is directly south from the Western Wall Plaza. Israel Antiquities Authority archeologists are investigating the incident.
The platform is one of two used for egalitarian prayer services in which men and women pray together. Halacha (Torah law) requires that a physical barrier separate men from women during prayer is such a manner that the men will not be able to see the women.
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall, assigned spiritual significance to the event.
“This is an unusual and most rare incident that has not occurred for decades,” Rabbi Rabinovitch said. “The fact that this powerful incident happened a day after the 9th of Av fast, in which we mourned the destruction of our temples, raises doubts and questions which the human soul is too small to contain, and requires soul-searching.”
“I thank the creator that a heavy disaster was averted,” he added. On Sunday, a fast day commemorating the destruction of the Jewish Temples, the platform was full of worshippers.
This is not the first time stones have broken away from the wall. In 2003, on the holy day of Yom Kippur, a worshipper was injured when a stone fell on his head. At the time, Rabbi Rabinovitch consulted with other rabbis and concluded that due to the sanctity of the site, repairs to the stones could only be carried out during the daytime by Jews who have immersed in a mikveh (ritual bath). Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzal informed Rabbi Rabinovitch that clearing away the rubble that has eroded is necessary not only for reasons of safety but also due to the obligation to improve the appearance of remains of the Temple.
The Palestinian media was quick to blame the Israelis for the event.
Due to the continuous Israeli excavations at al-Aqsa Mosque Compound, a huge rock was seen falling from the Buraq Wall (AKA Western Wall) earlier today!
— Quds News Network (@QudsNen) July 23, 2018