Approval of massive renovations at the Western Wall prayer plaza bodes ill for any who like a place for quiet reflection.  On the other hand, the changes will better accommodate the increasing crowds visiting the site.  From the Jerusalem Post:

A new plan to completely renovate the Western Wall Plaza was approved by the Jerusalem Local Planning and Building Committee on Monday, paving the way for the most drastic changes to the layout of the area since the plaza was created after the Six Day War.
“The goal of expanding the entrances and exits of the Western Wall plaza and will give us a solution for allowing large numbers of worshipers and visitors to enter at once, as well as emergency exits,” Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the chief rabbi of the Western Wall, told The Jerusalem Post.
The new plan, which is still in the very initial stages of approval, calls for a large underground plaza to replace the current main entrance, located at Dung Gate. A new visitor’s center will replace the current police building, with areas for educational programming, additional bathrooms, an auditorium, lecture halls, and an exhibition space for the archeological discoveries in the area.

The full article is here.  Other stories about the decision can be found here.

Western Wall plaza, tb010910251

Western Wall prayer plaza

iPhone users in Israel can now download an application that provides detailed information about tourist sites in Israel.  The free application is called iSrael and has been developed by the Israel Ministry of Tourism.  From the Jerusalem Post:

The application has three main sections: sites, tracks and accommodations. Each section can be navigated either by operating the “Around Me” option, which detects the user’s geographic location via GPS and arranges the information by distance from the user’s location; or by choosing the “By Region” option, which presents information according to the part of the country the user wishes to explore. Once a location is selected, users can choose from a list of sites according to their interests. The list includes themes such as archeology and history, nature and animals, holy places, national sites and parks and gardens. Choosing a category opens a list of all the relevant available attractions in the area and users can select a specific site out of the options offered. Clicking on a site opens a new page, which provides a photo and a description of the site as well as helpful information like contact details, hours of operation, a map of the area, a precise address and a link to the attraction’s website. The tracks section allows users to locate tours based on their interest and physical abilities. The section is divided into hiking tours, bicycle tours, vehicle tours and tours for people with disabilities. Each tour contains a description of the sites along the way and a map of the route. For now the selection is fairly limited, but Tourism Ministry officials said that more tours will be available as more are uploaded by the ministry and as other tourism bodies contribute suggested tours.

The full article is here.


Tom Powers commented on yesterday’s post, but knowing that many do not read the comments, I’m making a portion of it a post of its own.  He is replying to my statement that “Gaining access to the tomb today is more difficult than the average tourist site, but it is well worth it.”

Just a word about access to the “Tombs of the Kings” these days: There is none, as far as I know, for the forseeable future. The main reason is that the site is undergoing complete restoration. In fact, as part of this process folks from the Ecole were called on to excavate on top of the tomb and completely remove all of the accumulated earth. One object was to inspect and then seal the bedrock surfaces there, in order to prevent leakage of water into the tomb chambers. Also of interest, though, was to try to identify any traces of a superstructure — a nefesh — over the tomb, especially since Josephus mentions the “monuments of Helena” (War 5:147) as a landmark in tracing the line of Jerusalem’s Third Wall. Many have supposed that the tomb featured the sort of pyramids or cones that you have atop the “display tombs” in the Kidron Valley. Long story short: nothing conclusive was found. One byproduct, though: several tons of nice topsoil, which wound up in the garden of the Ecole Biblique!

You can see one artist’s reconstruction of the tomb with the original superstructure in James Finegan, The Archeology of the New Testament, page 315.

I hope that the current restoration work signifies an interest in making the tomb accessible to the public.