Although Israelis are being vaccinated against COVID-19, West Wall stones in Jerusalem’s Old City are getting their own injections, with syringes remarkably close to those used in the medical community.
Every six months, before the Passover and the High Holidays, engineers from the Western Wall Heritage Foundation and curators from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) check every stone in the Prayer Plaza to ensure the safety of tourists and the protection of the stones themselves, which are continuously subject to natural weathering.
Around 12 million people visited the wall last year before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stones that are determined to be in need of repair are “delicately injected” with a liquid limestone grout, explained Yossi Vaknin, head curator of the IAA in the Western Wall area. When the mud dries, he said, the holes in the stones are restored.
“We have an ‘identity card’ for each of the hundreds of stones in the plaza and monitor dozens of features,” said Vatknin, who added that the “card” allows inspectors to track the condition of every single one of the 2,000-year-old stones.
The latest pre-Passover survey revealed that the outer layer or “peel” of several stones needed treatment.
“Our work on the historic wall is non-destructive. We do not drill into the stone,” said Vatknin, who explained that the injections are “the best possible method of ‘healing’ the stones and the ultimate defense against weathering for the most important stones in the world.”
One of the main contributors to the weathering of the stones is the ecosystem of the ancient wall.
“The Western Wall is a unique ecological environment that supports its own life forms,” said Vaknin. “A lot of plants have taken root in the Wall’s stones—particularly thorny capers, golden drops and golden henbanes.”
Added to this, he said, are the many birds that make their nests in the wall.
“As part of our conservation work, in recognition of the importance of the site’s unique flora and fauna, we also preserve this ecosystem while guaranteeing the stones’ stability, thus ensuring that the Western Wall will remain strong for at least 2,000 more years,” said Vatknin.
The restoration work is carried out under the supervision of the Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz.