Pre-Passover conservation work has begun at the Western Wall in Jerusalem during the latest Corona lockdown, using injections with syringes that are very similar to the ones used by medical staff to administer vaccines.
Every six months, before Passover and the High Holy Days, Western Wall Heritage Foundation engineers and Israel Antiquities Authority conservators conduct thorough inspections of the 2,000-year-old Western Wall stones at the prayer plaza to ensure visitors’ safety.
The work at the site is subject to religious strictures established some 18 years ago by the rabbi of the Western Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz in consultations with the great rabbis of the time, most notably the late Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv of blessed memory.
Mordechai (Suli) Eliav, director of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, explained that “more than 12 million people visit the Western Wall Plaza each year, and although this year, because of Covid-19, people are increasingly visiting the Wall virtually, we are already preparing for the return of real visitors. The Western Wall Heritage Foundation is making every effort to preserve the Wall’s ancient stones and ensure its stability for the safety of worshipers and visitors.”
According to Yossi Vaknin, head conservator for the IAA in the Western Wall area, “the Wall’s 2,000-year-old stones are subject to the natural elements and we are making sure to bolster them. Our routine biannual inspections enable us to track the condition of every single stone. We keep an ID card for each of the hundreds of stones in the plaza and monitor dozens of their features.”
“Our most recent survey revealed that it was necessary to treat the ‘klipa’ (outer layer) of several stones. Our work on the historic wall is nondestructive. We do not drill into the stone, but delicately inject dissolved stone mater into the gaps and fissures. limestone-based grout is injected into the fissure as a liquid, and when it dries, the crack is repaired. It is the best possible method of healing the stones and the ultimate defense against weather damage for these very consequential stones,” Vaknin said.
“The Western Wall is a unique ecological environment that supports its own life forms,” Vaknin explained. “A lot of plants have taken root in the Wall’s stones – particularly thorny capers, golden drops, and golden henbanes. Also, many birds nest in the Wall, including the common swift which arrives every year, ravens, and doves. As part of our conservation work, in recognition of the importance of the site’s unique flora and fauna, we also preserve this ecosystem while guaranteeing the stones’ stability, thus ensuring that the Western Wall will remain strong for at least 2,000 more years.”