Cleared esplanade of the Wailing Wall
The Wailing Wall or Western Wall ("Kotel Hama 'aravi"), long of 48 m and 18 m high, on the SW side of the Temple district, is the largest of the sites venerated by the Jews. Where the open space borders the wall, it is cut off by a railing and the area is used as a synagogue, the right-hand part being for women and the left-hand part for men. This is where great religious ceremonies take place and where army recruits are sworn in.
The Wailing Wall gets its name from the lamentation of the Jews for the destruction of the Temple. It was the only part of the Temple that was almost always accessible to them. Pious Jews prefer coming here rather than going into the Temple square itself since the position of the Holy of Holies where none but the high priest may go is not precisely known. Since 1967 the densily built site during the Jordanian rule, has been made into a huge open square. Orthodox Jews clad in black gather there for religious debates. A radical group of Orthodox Jews have periodically issued threats against the Muslim shrines in hopes of rebuilding the Temple there. These threats are treated seriously by the Israeli authorities and the group is kept away from the Temple Mount. More mainstream Orthodox opinion forbids Jews from walking on the Temple Mount because of the possibility of unwittingly defiling the place where sacrifices were once offered. Non-Orthodox Jews typically accept the opinion of other authorities who argue the sanctity of the Temple Mount ended when the Temple and altar were destroyed and that it is permissible for Jews to go there so long as they show respect for what was once a holy place.