Dedication of Wilsonís ArchAfter three years of hard work and renovations, the prayer area under the Makhkama -known as Wilson's Arch - was finally completed. The renovations included restoration of the archeological findings in the area, strengthening of the arch and of the walls of the Makhkama and of the Kotel itself in the area.
Scaffolding was in place for over a year which allowed workers to remove the cement that had been applied haphazardly in the past over the stones in that area. Also, for the first time, a women's section was erected under the arch which will allow women to pray inside protected from the elements, and take part in the services held inside under the arch.
A central "Aron Kodesh", the ark holding the Torah scrolls, was built in place of the ten small Aronot used previously. This Aron has the capacity for over one hundred Torah scrolls. Adjacent to this, an area was built which includes new bookshelves, a library, new lighting, air-conditioning for the summer and heating for the winter. A new room was also built for the scribes of the Kotel. Their job is to maintain and preserve the Torah scrolls of the Kotel. This room will allow them to do their job more efficiently, while children will now be able to observe the scribes at work.
The project was under the auspices of The Western Wall Heritage Foundation under the supervision of the rabbi of the Kotel, Rav Rabinovich. It was funded by the Israeli government and other generous Jewish donors from around the world. The lionís share of the donation came from Mrs. Lily Safra who donated the renovations in memory of her husband, Mr. Edmond J. Safra. The ceremony dedicating the newly improved Wilsonís Arch took place together with the dedication of two Torah scrolls which were donated by Mrs. Lily Safra in honor of her son Hezkiyahu Hacohen and her grandson Refael Hacohen.
Speakers at the dedication ceremony included: President of Israel, Mr. Moshe Katzav, Ashkenazi and Sephardi chief rabbis, Rav Metzger and Rav Omar, the mayor of Jerusalem, Rav Uri Lupolianski, the chief rabbi of the Kotel, Rav Rabinovich, and the director of The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, Rav Mordechai (Suli) Eliav.