Jerusalem authorities restricted access to one of Judaism’s holiest sites on Monday after a massive stone block from the Western Wall fell to the ground below, narrowly missing a worshipper.
“The stone, weighing 100 kilogrammes (220 pounds), fell close to a woman who was praying... without hitting her,” Mayor Nir Barkat said in a statement.
He said the fact that nobody was harmed in the incident was “a great miracle”.
Barkat visited the scene with Jerusalem’s city engineer and safety officials, who declared the spot dangerous and closed it to the public pending further inspection.
Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz said he could not explain the incident but the fact it happened a day after a major gathering at the Western Wall called for “soul-searching”.
On Sunday, tens of thousands of Jewish worshippers thronged the main, gender-segregated Western Wall esplanade for annual prayers mourning the razing of the Jews’ biblical-era temples.
Monday’s incident struck a less-visited part of the wall, where men and women are permitted to pray together contrary to Orthodox Jewish practice.
Rabinowitz noted that the stones above the main prayer section of the Western Wall are examined by professionals twice a year.
The Western Wall, in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, is the holiest place at which Jews are allowed to pray.
They believe it is what remains of a supporting wall of their biblical second temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
Immediately above it is the flashpoint shrine known to Jews as the Temple Mount, the holiest in Judaism, revered as the spot where the two biblical Jewish temples once stood.
To Muslims it is the Haram al-Sharif compound, the third-holiest in Islam after Mecca and Medina, and home to the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock.