Classic Haaretz: “Lack Of Shade Makes Kosel Visit Unbearable For Tourists”


koselThe following is a report from Haaretz, as the left-wing newspaper typically highlights negativity about a holy place cherished by Klal Yisroel:

It was a beautiful, partially cloudy spring day in Jerusalem on Tuesday, with temperatures reaching 25 degrees Celsius in the shade. A perfect day for strolling around nearly any part of the city, with one truly glaring exception: the Western Wall Plaza. The glaring whiteness of the plaza pavement reflected the heat, and the complete absence of trees, buildings and pergolas ensured that there was not a speck of shade. The result is an almost unbearable experience for worshipers and tourists who congregate at the Judaism’s holiest site. The situation will only become worse with the arrival of summer.

Light-skinned tourists, mainly from Europe, seem to turn bright red within minutes of standing around the plaza. But all visitors, regardless of skin tone, find that they are sweaty, uncomfortable, dazzled by the glare and desperate for a bit of shade. About 20 people could be seen on Tuesday crowded together, almost lying down, to take advantage of the shade offered by a low fence on the western part of the plaza. Another group huddled in a patch of shade near the bathrooms. The tour guides quickly whisked their groups away from the broiling plaza to shadier spots.

The unbearable brightness of being at the Western Wall Plaza, where there is no respite from the sun and heat.

“I was at bar mitzvah on the eve of Passover, which isn’t yet summer, and people said it was impossible to concentrate on the prayers,” recalls Ofer Cohen, chairman of an NGO, called the Lobby for Jewish Values. “Anyone who prays when it is hot has to finish the prayer quickly – it isn’t praying with a focused mind,” says Cohen, who has asked the ministers of tourism and religious affairs to try to solve the problem.

Tour guides are also irked by the harsh conditions at the plaza.

“The problem exists all year around, both in the rain and in the sun,” says Jerusalem guide Ben Lev Kadesh. “In this whole huge space there isn’t a single covered corner. Many of the tourists come from Europe and it isn’t easy for them to stand in the sun.”

Tour guides have various ways of dealing with the challenge. “You can skimp on the explanation or give it somewhere else,” says Kadesh.”But then you break the tour guide’s first rule, which is that you don’t explain what you can’t see. Another solution is to look for a spot near the toilets or in the tunnel that connects the plaza with Hagai Street, but it’s always crowded there.”

The rabbi’s ruling on shade

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, who administers the site, has ruled that nothing can be built on the plaza. “We’ve consulted about this, and there have been plans, but nothing can be done,” says Rabinovitch, explaining: “Anything that is built will overshadow the Wall,” he says.

Indeed all ideas for providing some kind of cover or shade in parts of the plaza have been rejected. The problem has been under discussion for decades, say officials in Rabinovitch’s office. “There have been discussions about how to deal with heat in summer and rain in winter. But most people from the areas of planning, history and archaeology have felt strongly that for the sake of the Wall’s splendor, glory, and the memory of the past, the Western Wall should be revealed without means of shading,” say the officials.

The solution of planting tress, and even a lawn that would absorb some of the glare, is unthinkable because of a prohibition in rabbinical law. Rabinovitch devoted an entire chapter to this issue in a book of responsa on the matter of the Western Wall. After a lengthy discussion of rabbinical law pertaining to the planting of trees and grass in Jerusalem after the destruction of the Temple, Rabinovitch reaches the conclusion that the Western Wall Plaza must be left in “simplicity and modesty.” “What pleasure could it be for us to improve and glorify the plaza facing the ruined and desolate house of our Lord where foxes have run,” he wrote.

Another more promising solution is to distribute parasols on the plaza. “The rabbi has decided that at bar mitzvah celebrations, when families spend a long time in the plaza, parasols will be opened in the area of the ceremonies. It should be noted that there were many opponents to this decision, who argued that this cheapens the Wall,” according to a statement from the rabbi’s bureau.

“Creative solutions can be found,” insists Cohen.” Let them put up wedding canopies instead of parasols that are reminiscent of the beach. Shade during prayers is not a luxury; it’s a minimum condition to be able to pray with a clear mind. It’s enough that someone says to the cantor, ‘Hurry up, it’s hot,’ to ruin everything. The worship isn’t dignified like this.” According to the rabbi’s bureau, “Taking everyone’s needs into consideration is no trivial matter and the rabbi is making a tremendous effort to provide solutions for everyone insofar as this is possible.”

{Haaretz/ Newscenter}


  1. Nothing surprising about their negativity. They are very left-wing and am surprised they didn’t demonize it more. To Haaretz, religious prohibitions mean nothing and the kotel is no more than a ‘wall’.
    Aside from that, canopies in the heart of the summer would be a smart idea and is only a temporary fix which might be appropriate.

  2. There is a classical misconception that the kotel is only what you see in the pictures. This is only about 1/7th of the total kotel. There are a number of shady areas. If one wants to daven outdoors in the shade, there is the kotel katan in the “muslim” quarter. This section of the kotel is where many of the really old pictures of the kotel were taken.

    More practically for most tourists, they can daven in the temperature controlled indoor “shul” area of the kotel in the front of the men’s section. There is also an entrance for the women through the back.

    And finally, if you want a truly interesting experience, there is a small shul area in the kotel tunnels directly opposite the area where we believe the kodesh hakadoshim stood and will stand once again. It’s cooler underground, and it’s quite an experience.

  3. I spent a summer in Jerusalem, and never thought of this as a disaster.

    By the way, if you are there for Shacharis (morning prayers) you are perfectly in the shade. Nice and yummy cool.

    I look forward to being there again, whatever time. I would consider it a privilege.

  4. When I had the privilege to be in Eretz Yisroel I davened mincha almost daily at the Kosel and it never occured to me that it is cold, hot, sunny, shady, etc.
    Maybe some people don’t belong there.

  5. Ofer come pray with us,
    It is the most beautiful place on earth.
    Jews have come to this site to pray for thousands of years, without any shade cover.
    By the way there is a very nice place inside
    with shade and prayer books available as well. So please come grab a tehilim, and join us.