JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The ancient stones that make up Jerusalem’s Western Wall are showing the scars of weathering from two millennia of scorching sunlight and driving rain.
To stop them getting worse and to ensure their integrity, Israeli conservators are giving the stones a face lift, mending the cracks and filling out their battered surfaces.
The Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest prayer site, is an outer remnant of the second of two Jewish temples, built by Herod the Great more than 2,000 years ago and destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
It nestles in Jerusalem’s old city, next to a sacred compound revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, a short walk from Christianity’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Huge crowds gather at the wall for prayer sessions and visitors often stuff notes in cracks between the stones.
The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) tracks the condition of each stone and has begun treating the surface of those most in need.
Using a portable lift and a medical syringe, its team delicately injects a limestone-based grout into the gaps and fissures in the stones.
“It is the best possible method of healing the stones and the ultimate defense against weathering,” said IAA’s Yossi Vaknin.
And it is not just the climate that has taken a toll, he said. Plants have taken root and birds nest in the wall, making the repair work even more necessary.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch, editing by Ed Osmond)