(July 23, 2018 / JNS) A woman praying in the egalitarian prayer plaza was narrowly spared from death on Monday morning when a 220-pound stone fell out of the Western Wall and plummeted to the ground.
A woman—the only person at the “Ezrat Yisrael” mixed-gender prayer plaza at the time—seemed so absorbed that she failed to notice the falling brick, which broke the plaza floor just a few meters in front of her.
Officials from the Israel Antiquities Authority immediately sent inspectors, archaeologists, conservationists and engineers to the site, and have closed off a portion of the plaza until safety can be assured.
Though a debate swirls around gender segregation at the Western Wall, a large portion of the wall closer to the Dung Gate, near the Robinson’s Arch, is sectioned off for pluralistic use and is not regulated by Orthodox authorities. The area primarily sits empty, except for family events such as bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies.
The breakage comes just a day after the Western Wall plaza was filled with worshippers marking Tisha B’Av—a day of fasting and mourning the destruction of the two holy Jewish temples at the site.
This is not the first time a piece of the Kotel has dislodged. In 2004, a large piece of Herodian stone fell onto the main prayer plaza. Officials said they believed that it toppled after metal objects placed in the cracks of the wall by birds led to erosion.