Jerusalem, Israel - Jan. 24, 2023 - From two million a few years ago, twelve million visitors are now expected to come to the Western Wall every year, according to the Rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites of Israel, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch. He was speaking in Hebrew with a private press tour in the new Western Wall Heritage Center Building, coordinated by MediaCentral and translated by the Western Wall Hertitage spokesperson Yohanna Bisraor.
Rabbi Rabinovitch said he has not gone up to Har Habayit and believes Jews should not. However, he believes Muslims should not be the ones to make the decision.
Before entering the Israel Police David Region Station (no photos or video allowed inside), we met with Dean Elsdunne, the new International Israeli police spokesperson about the situation with the Holy Sites.
As a lone soldier from Florida, Elsdunne served to combat terror in an elite unit of the Israel Border Police. He feels that his past experiences led him to a deeper understanding of Israel's efforts to keep the public and its civilians safe, civilians of all religions. Also, Tel Aviv Police Spokesperson Mirit Ben Mayor, added to the conversation and stressed how the police are careful to confirm facts before posting responses to events.
The guided tour of the new Western Wall Tunnels - Great Bridge Route begins with a historical overview of the Western Wall.
Thousands of years of history are presented with scenes and explanations by a guide before one descends down to see the new excavations and preservation work. The newly uncovered stones go back 2,000 years revealing rooms from the time of Bayit Sheni, including the mikvah used by those who came to the Har Habayit.
The newly opened-to-the-public Great Bridge Route joins the classic Great Stone Route and Journey to Jerusalem tours. Each is a little over an hour long and requires reservations and a fee for entry. Plus there is the 'Look into the Past' - Bayit Sheni in 3D with advanced virtual reality and special seating, and audio availabie in seven languages.
The Western Wall Plaza is open 24/7 the entire year.
See the video with explanations by our guide, historical highlights from the Foundation Stone to today, 4,000 years condensed into under 4 minutes.
The photo essay includes images from the underground excavations, scenes from outside the morning of our visit (note the new infrastructure work) on the Plaza, and the new Western Wall Synagogue.