An enormous chunk of chiseled stone dislodged from the Western Wall on Monday and crashed onto the egalitarian prayer platform only feet from a woman in the middle of her prayers.
The incident was captured on video which shows the dramatic moment when the large stone simply falls from its place and shatters nearly crushing a worshipper. The stone fell in the controversial egalitarian prayer section. Disturbing enough, this happened the day after the fast of Tisha B’Av which commemorates the destruction of the Temple. The Rabbi of the main Western Wall plaza told the Times of Israel that the incident requires soul-searching.
“This is an unusual and most rare incident that has not occurred for decades,” said Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch. “The fact that this powerful incident happened a day after the 9th of Av fast, in which we mourned the destruction of our temples, raises doubts and questions which the human soul is too small to contain, and requires soul-searching.”
The section of the wall the boulder tumbled from is part of one of the original Herodian sections of the wall. An archaeologist who visited the site later Monday warned that the entire wall is a danger zone as other stones have large cracks and said the public should stay away. It is a matter of time before more fall.
The Israeli Antiquities Authority said in a statement that stone may have fallen from vegetation in the wall’s cracks, entrapped moisture, or a still unknown engineering failure. The area below and around the now damaged prayer platform is littered with other large hewn boulders, remnants of the wall pried loose by the Romans during the Temple’s destruction 2,000 years ago.
The last time something like this happened was in 2004 when several large pieces of stone fell into the main courtyard on Yom Kippur slightly injuring a worshipper.
Sniper Wounds Soldier, IDF Retaliates
A Palestinian sniper firing from Gaza wounded an Israel soldier as an IDF patrol moved to send away a group of youth protesting at the border fence.
The officer was moderately wounded, and Israel quickly retaliated by striking Hamas military positions killing three, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Ha’aretz reports that Hamas claimed the three killed were members of a group that patrols the border fence.
This sniper attack comes a week after an IDF soldier was shot and killed by a sniper from Gaza. The resulting counterattack was overwhelming and ended in a short-term ceasefire between Hamas and Israel brokered by Egypt. The effectiveness of the ceasefire was limited as rocket launches and other attacks sometimes happen without Hamas authorization.
The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel does not believe this latest sniper attack was authorized by Hamas, yet they hold Hamas responsible for any attacks that happen under their watch as they are the ruling force in Gaza.
After Israeli tanks and planes struck Gaza on Wednesday night, nine rockets launched from Gaza into Israel on Thursday morning, all falling in open areas and one intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
Earlier in the week, the Israeli military fired at a group of Palestinians launching incendiary devices wounding three, one of them gravely. Israel now operates with a zero tolerance policy for the launching of such devices and have continually targeted launch sites, materials, and Palestinians launching them. The fire-kites and balloons have been one of the most effective weapons during the Gaza border conflict inflicting heavy damage on the Israeli agricultural sector by burning thousands of hectares of land.
The ongoing Gaza border protest which draws weekly riots and casualties has escalated beyond violence at the fence as both Gazans and Israelis are using more lethal attacks edging closer to another open war.
Israel Downs Syrian Jet
Israel shot down a Syrian fighter jet that violated Israeli airspace over the Golan Heights on Tuesday.
Israel said that the Russian-made Sukhoi plane was under surveillance when it flew some 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) into Israeli airspace. That’s when an anti-air system launched two Patriot missiles that intercepted the jet.
An Israeli spokesperson said the plane crashed in Syrian territory in the southern portion of the Syrian Golan Heights. Ha’aretz reported that a Syrian army source said the pilot was killed.
The Syrian government said that one of its jets was shot down while conducting raids in southern Syria, in Syrian airspace. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the incident was a violation of the 1974 Separation of Forces agreement that created a buffer zone between Israeli and Syrian forces. Israel has sent their own jets into Syrian airspace dozens of times to strike Syrian-Iranian targets intent on holding Iran away from their border.