Western Wall Tunnels (and my first real conversation in Hebrew) – Jerusalem

The Western Wall Tunnel Tour was one of the “must-see” attractions in Jerusalem. Unfortunately this was true and all the English tours going into the tunnels were booked for a couple of days. This forced us to take a Hebrew tour underneath the Temple Mount. My Hebrew isn’t bad, I can probably talk to a five year old (which I actually did – see third paragraph), so you can imagine how this went.

The Western Wall (Kotel in Hebrew – one of the words I could make out), was built as part of the First and Second Temples, both of which were later destroyed. The length of the Western Wall is much longer than what is visible from the outside; in fact most of the Temple Mount sunk and was later excavated, including the currently open portion of the Western Wall. Most of it is still underground (although it was ground level in Biblical times) and accessible only by the tunnel tours. Within the tunnel tours we saw different levels of construction (2nd photo), where the Second Temple wall was built on top of the First Temple wall, etc. In fact, the lower level of the wall in the second photo is made up of one entire stone (it is unknown how it was transported to Jerusalem). We also saw holes in the wall (3rd photo) made by Romans during the destruction of the Second Temple. The tour also took us past an area of the wall directly across from where the Holy of Holies was believed to be, making that specific spot the most holy location in Judaism, and subsequently a popular place to pray. Prayers were written on small pieces of paper and stuffed all along the underground wall (4th photo). The tour concluded in an underground cistern that had collected water to serve Jerusalem (last photo).

We caught a lot of glances as we were walking through the tunnel (we were the only Asians – probably ever – on a Hebrew tour) and a lot of people were friendly enough to help translate. As we passed the area in the 5th photo a five year old Israeli, wanting to practice his English, stopped and talked to me. I wanted to practice my Hebrew so our conversation went something like this: (note Hebrew doesn’t use the English alphabet)

Kid: What’s up?

Me: Ma kore? (What’s up?)

Kid: You speak Hebrew?

Me: Ken ani medabere ivrit. (Yes I speak Hebrew)

Kid: (says something quickly in Hebrew)

Me: UmAni medabere kztat ivrit. (Um.. I speak a little Hebrew)

Kid: …

Me: (Quickly changing the subject) Mi ayfo ata? (Where are you from? — at this point his parents and some other Israeli tourists started to listen to us in amusement)

Kid: (says something quickly in Hebrew)


Kid: From the North, in the Golan.

Me: Becedere, ani mi Rehovot (Good, I’m from Rehovot).

Kid’s father: Rehovot!

Me: Ken, ani gara beh Mahron Vaitzman (Yes, I live in the Weizmann Institute – the kid is disinterested at this point)

Kid’s father: Ata oved bah Mahron? (You work in the Institute?)

Me: Lo, ani talmead. (No I’m a student).

The kid’s father turns to his wife and starts speaking quickly in Hebrew. I find this time appropriate to disappear and take more pictures but am secretly very pleased with myself.


~ by jonathanmtsai on December 12, 2010.

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