The Wailing Wall (also known as the Western Wall) in the old city of Jerusalem is the holiest site in Judaism. It is the only remainder of what is believed to be the temple destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans. Jews make pilgrimages to the wall to pray, lament the loss of the temple and place written prayers within the cracks of the wall.
Jews and non-Jews alike are welcome to visit the wall and its adjacent plaza to pray and observe. Because it is considered holy ground, women and men must adhere to a modest dress code to approach the wall. According to Jewish tradition, there are different sections for men and women to pray at the holy site as well. Read below to understand the proper dress for visiting this religious site.
Visiting the Wailing Wall
Visitors to the Western Wall must enter the plaza adjacent to the Western Wall through one of few entrances with guards and metal detectors. Once you are cleared to enter, the Western Wall Plaza is an attractive gathering place paved with smooth stone matching the color of the Wall.
An air-conditioned visitors' center is an excellent resource for non-Jews, as it plays informative films about the history of Judaism and the Western Wall. The center also has a museum dedicated to remembering the Holocaust of World War II and justifying the validity of the Jewish state. The Israeli flag flies above the plaza with Islam's Al-Aqsa Mosque in the background above the temple.
Dress Code for Women
Women wanting to approach the wall to pray or observe may only do so wearing modest clothing. Though signs ask women to consider the holy nature of the place, some tourists insist on working on wearing whatever they want, which is not respectful.
Appropriate clothing is neutral colored trousers and top with sleeves. Do your best to avoid tank tops and t-shirts, and if you do wear them, bring a jacket or shawl. If a female visitor is wearing a sleeveless shirt and does nopt have one, there are dark-colored shawls available in a basket to wrap around her arms. If she is wearing a short skirt that reveals her legs, she will be asked to wrap a provided cover around her. The visitor need not feel self-conscious as many tourists wear the provided coverings. It is also regarded as highly respectful to wear a head covering. Once you are done visiting the wall, you may remove the shawl and skirt cover and return to the basket.
Dress Code for Men
Men wishing to enter the prayer section of the wall are required to wear either a Jewish skull cap called a yamakah or kippah or a hat. Any hat will do as long as it fits the visitor's head and doesn't have overt decorations. If a male visitor does not have a hat, he may take a paper yamakah provided at the entrance to the prayer section of the wall. Males may also venture into a special prayer room exclusively set aside for Orthodox males who sometimes pray in the room for hours at a time.
Other Holy Sites in Israel
The Western Wall is one of the many holy sites found in Israel. Others, often included in large religious tours with tour guides avilable for tourists, include Temple Mount, Mount of Olives, Mount Zion, Tomb of the Virgin and others. While in Israel, many will also visit the Dead Sea in Jordan. These sites are highly respected and cherished by Jewish people, but individuals of other beliefs like Christians as well.
If you choose to travel to the middle east to view these historic religious sites in the holy land, ensure you are respectful in all ways, both in behavior and dress.