A stone block that dislodged from the Western Wall in Jerusalem earlier in the week, plunging to the ground where it narrowly missed a praying woman, was removed Wednesday.
Authorities used a crane to lift and move the stone, estimated to weigh over 100 kilograms, to the adjacent area of the Mughrabi Gate into the Temple Mount.
Hadashot TV news reported that in the coming days the rabbi of the Western Wall, the two chief rabbis of Israel, and the rabbi of the Old City of Jerusalem will hold discussions on what to do with the stone, which, due to its history, is considered a sacred object.
One option is to return the block to its place, if possible.
The stone tumbled Monday morning onto the egalitarian prayer platform, near Robinson’s Arch. The rock, whose fall was captured by security camera footage, landed very close to a female worshiper there, damaging the platform on which she was praying but leaving her unscathed.
Officials blocked public access to the prayer platform, but is was later reopened.
Checks are still underway to find out why the block suddenly fell from its place. The Israel Antiques Authority is of the opinion that the stone’s fall was due to natural causes. Teams of experts are planning to use ultrasound and other means to further investigate the incident.
Amit Ram, an archaeologist from the Jerusalem division of the IAA, assessed that water seepage, roots from bushes or trees on the other side of the wall, or just the result of bearing the weight for so long may have caused the stone to dislodge.
Ram also noted that a water gutter had been carved into the wall beneath the place where the stone was positioned, apparently loosening it.
“The IAA sees the event as a wake-up call, and even an opportunity,” he said. “Tomorrow another stone can fall in any site in the Old City, and we think it is time to carry out a thorough treatment of all the archaeological sites in the city.”
The work, he said, should be done as soon as possible, while “taking into account the religious sentiments.”
The mixed prayer area, Ram said, should be reopened for use in the coming weeks. He noted that as a general rule, the Western Wall is checked for safety once or twice a year. However, a much more comprehensive assessment should be carried out, he urged.
The Western Wall is revered by Jews as a remnant of a wall supporting the Second Temple complex, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.
The area below the prayer platform is littered with other large hewn boulders, apparently remnants of the wall pried loose by the Romans during the Temple’s destruction 2,000 years ago.