Western Wall stone falls, narrowly missing worshipper in Jerusalem.
An elderly worshipper had a close call when a 100-kilogram stone suddenly fell from Jerusalem’s Western Wall and crashed at her feet.
The Israel Antiquities Authority said the boulder may have been dislodged by erosion caused by vegetation or moisture in the wall, the holiest place where Jews are permitted to pray.
“I didn’t hear or feel anything until it landed right at my feet,” Daniella Goldberg, a 79-year-old Jerusalem resident who had gone to the wall in the early morning to pray, said.
“There was a big hole in the floor as you can see, in the deck, the boards of the stairs were even broken. I didn’t understand where it fell from. I looked high up, it’s all intact up there.”
A security camera captured the moment at the site revered by Jews as a remnant of the compound of the Second Temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
One of Islam’s holiest sites, the Noble Sanctuary, where al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock stand, lies above.
The footage showed the stone falling from a height of about seven metres in a nearly vacant section of the wall adjacent to its picture-postcard main plaza, where Jewish worshippers traditionally cram written prayers into crevices.
Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich called it a most unusual event that had not happened in decades.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said it was “a great miracle” that the stone did not harm the worshipper.
“We are talking about [an ancient] structure that is under the process of natural erosion, together with nature’s harms,” he said.
“You can also see behind us the erosion caused as a result of vegetation, as a result of humidity.
“We don’t know exactly why this thing happened. Routine maintenance work is needed, which must be funded by the state of Israel if this asset is important to it.”
Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Israel Hasson, said they could not rule out more stones falling from the walls.
“The reason that can cause this is ageing, plants, wetness, water that seeps into the stones. A professional that looks at the hole that was made when the stone fell can see that the colour is grey and that means it was damp,” he said.
“It is a long process of dampness in a crack that we cannot tell what caused it. But, it can be that it may continue to other stones.”
Despite the falling rock, Mr Hasson was able to joke that it was testament to the original builders.
“I wish that everybody could have a builder who would construct such buildings that a stone falls only after 2,000 years,” he said.
Just a day earlier, worshippers had flocked to the holy site for Tisha B’Av, an annual Jewish day of mourning that marks the destruction of the two Biblical temples in Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem municipality temporarily closed the section for a safety inspection. It is built near piles of boulders believed to date to the time of the Second Temple.
The main Western Wall esplanade remained open.
A 2014 study by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem charted erosion in the different kinds of limestone that make up the Western Wall and said engineers were concerned about its stability.