Imagine going to Western Wall to pray and your find that it has been sprayed with red graffiti.

This actually occurred this past Shabbat. Vandals spray-painted the ancient stones of what is known as the Kotel HaKatan (The Little Wall), a lesser-known extension of the iconic Western Wall, with Arabic graffiti that urged, “Slaughter the Jews.”

Two Moslem teenage girls were arrested in connection with this hate crime

This was not the first time that such an abomination occurred. In 2004, Jewish Quarter residents came to pray and were horrified to see feces smeared next to it. On the Kotel HaKatan was red graffiti which said in Arabic, “Allah Akbar” (God is great).

The 187 feet of the Western Wall that people see is only a small part of the western retaining wall Herod built around the Temple Mount. The Western Wall is actually 1,600 feet long. There are a few more meters of it visible in the Ophel Archaeological Garden to the right of the plaza. The rest of the wall runs to the right of the plaza; it is mostly hidden under buildings in the Moslem Quarter. To see this part of the wall one needs to take a tour of the Western Wall Tunnels. There is also one more small section of the Wall which is visible. It is situated in an alley deep within the Moslem Quarter.

The Kotel HaKatan is located less than 660 feet south of the Western Wall Plaza and next to the Iron Gate. It is the second closest place, outside of the Temple Mount, to the Holy of Holies. The closest location is within the Western Wall Tunnels. The Kotel HaKatan is 65 feet long and 13 feet wide. There is room for approximately 50 people.

Throughout the years, and even after the Six Day War, Moslems have thrown waste and garbage into the Kotel HaKatan Plaza. The area has no formal signs leading to it, while its holiness is no less than that of the famous Western Wall.

The Kotel HaKatan received public attention in 1972 when work in the Western Wall Tunnel severely compromised the structural safety of one of the Arab houses close to the Iron Gate, which is one of the entrance gates to the Temple Mount. A city engineer, acting on the mayor’s orders, attempted to save the building. The workers drilled four holes in the adjacent wall (the Kotel HaKatan) to provide bar supports for the house. There was an uproar over the innocent mistake. The chief rabbi at the time, Rabbi Yitzchak Nissim, held a protest prayer service at the site. The rabbi of the Western Wall, Rabbi Yehudah Getz, collected fragments of the stone and stored them for safekeeping. The engineer was forced to build supports that did not rest on the Kotel HaKatan.

Over the years there have been incidents between those who came to pray and the Moslem residents of the courtyard. But order finally was preserved, and Jews come to visit and pray there all year long, especially on Shabbat and holidays.

Due to the sensitive nature of the place, the police have not allowed any physical changes of the area, such as permanent benches, bookcases, etc. Thus, people must lug all the equipment with them to each prayer service and when the service is over, they must carry all of it away. This is part of the site’s status quo. Despite repeated attempts by various groups, the government has not declared the spot a “Holy Place,” and therefore it is under the supervision of the police and not the rabbi of the Kotel.

On one occasion, the police preserved the status quo by preventing Jewish worshippers from installing a basin for the ritual hand washing. Many years ago, the Wakf (the Moslem religious trust) suspected that Jewish worshippers planned to break into the Temple Mount through the Kotel HaKatan. The police had to separate the two feuding camps and remove the door.

Years ago I heard about this special place, and finally, one day someone took me there. It was amazing to see a part of the Western Wall that most people don’t know exists. My husband was there for the first time in 1975. “It bothered me that we couldn’t pray out loud and that there weren’t any chairs,” he told me.

Alizah Hochstead visited the site many times. One of the times she brought her non-religious father to the site. “Something stirred within his soul while he was there,” Alizah told me. “ In that one place there was a spark that lit up. It spoke to someone not at all religious.” Her father passed away in 2002, and she decided to have a memorial service for him at the Kotel HaKatan.

Next time you are in Jerusalem come experience the Kotel HaKatan!