Huge stone drops from Western Wall, narrowly missing worshipper

An elderly woman narrowly escaped tragedy at Jerusalem’s Western Wall on Monday when a 220-pound stone fell just steps away from where she was praying.

Security footage of the rare incident shows the stone dislodging from the ancient holy wall and falling about 23 feet, Reuters reports, leaving a hole in the raised wooden platform below. 

Daniella Goldberg, a 79-year-old resident of the city, can be seen in the video grasping the platform’s railing in shock as she turns from praying at the wall to survey the damage. 

“I didn’t hear or feel anything until it landed right next to my feet,” Goldberg told Reuters.  

Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, is calling the woman’s dangerously close-call a “miracle.”

“A great miracle occurred when a stone ... fell near the worshipper and did not hurt her,” Barkat said in a statement.

A stone that fell off the Western Wall in Jerusalem can be seen near the wall in Jerusalem's Old City on Monday.

The Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting an investigation of the section, which could keep it closed for two weeks, according to the Jerusalem Post. If other stones are found to be in danger of falling, the section could be closed longer as each stone is secured.

IAA Chairman Yisrael Hasson said the stone’s fall could have been caused by humidity or by erosion caused by plants growing in the wall’s crevices.

″We are talking about a 2,000-year-old structure that is under the process of natural erosion, together with nature’s harms,” Hasson told Reuters. “We don’t know exactly why this thing happened.”

A man looks at the stone that fell from the Western Wall on Monday.

The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, is an important place of pilgrimage and prayer in the Jewish tradition. It is believed to be the only remaining part of the Second Temple of Jerusalem, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. 

The Western Wall is part of a larger complex that is also important to the world’s Muslims. The Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque are located above the Western Wall.

The incident happened in an area of the wall known as Ezrat Yisrael, which lies south of the main prayer plaza. The platform is reserved for progressive Jewish visitors who want to participate in mixed-gender prayer. 

Israel’s Orthodox religious establishment restricts men and women from praying together in the main section of the wall. Women are allowed in a gender-segregated section but are prohibited from wearing traditional Jewish prayer shawls or reading aloud from the Torah. 

Jewish women pray at the women's section, on the right, which is separated from the men's section of the Western Wall.

Feminist Jewish groups, like Women of the Wall, and liberal Jewish denominations, such as the Reform and Conservative movements, have long campaigned for greater equality at the holy site and a permanent place to pray. Ultra-Orthodox groups regularly protest mixed-gender prayer services at the wall.

Progressive Jewish groups were assigned a separate section for mixed-gender prayer in 2000. A temporary platform was constructed at the section in 2003 and renovated significantly in 2013. In 2016, the Israeli government approved a plan to construct a permanent egalitarian section that would be overseen by progressive Jewish leaders. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu froze that plan in 2017, The Times of Israel reports.

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man tries to prevent Anat Hoffman (center), the founder of Women of the Wall, from entering the women's section of the Western Wall while carrying a Torah scroll on Nov. 2, 2016.

The fact that no one was harmed Monday is striking given that the platform was filled with visitors just one day earlier for Tisha B’Av. The Jewish day of mourning commemorates the destruction of the temple and is one of the most crowded days of the year at the wall, according to the Jerusalem Post.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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