Serpent in the stone

Snake emerges from Western Wall cracks, halting prayers

Harmless coin-marked snake’s capture prompts speculation of its portent by internet commentators

Luke Tress is a video journalist and tech reporter for the Times of Israel

Prayers at the Western Wall were unexpectedly interrupted on Wednesday night when a snake slithered out from stones above the women’s prayer section.

The reptile caused some “panic and embarrassment” among the worshipers below, until a “skilled snake catcher” was found to capture the serpent, according to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which released video of the incident. The catcher pulled the snake from the wall to applause from worshipers and posed for photos with his quarry. He identified the snake as a coin-marked snake, an indigenous species which looks threatening but is non-poisonous.

The snake seemed to be in pursuit of pigeons, or their eggs, and was likely trying to fatten up for the winter, the Ynet news site reported.

The coin-marked snake, named for its distinctive, round markings, is native to a wide swath of the Middle East, central Asia and southern Europe. It can grow to nearly five feet long and feeds on birds, rodents, lizards and other snakes.

The sudden appearance of a serpent emerging from Judaism’s holiest site prompted speculation among internet commentators, some of which who drew connections to Adam and Eve, and predicted both the coming of the Messiah and bad tidings for the people of Israel.

Daniella Goldberg (left), with Culture Minister Miri Regev, inspects the damage caused by a large stone that dislodged from the Western Wall in Jerusalem Old City on July 23, 2013, at the mixed-gender prayer section. The boulder fell close to where Goldberg was praying. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The snake was not the first frightening incident at the wall this year: in July, a 220-pound boulder dislodged from the wall and fell to the plaza floor, nearly crushing a woman at prayer below.

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