Jerusalem stone is not only the most popular building material in Israel, it is the most beautiful and meaningful in the world. For the past 3,000 years, the holy city of Jerusalem has been built and rebuilt with Jerusalem stone. In fact, the current law in Jerusalem requires all structures to be covered in this stunning ancient material, giving the city a unique and magnificent look and feel. Everything in Jerusalem, from its hotels to its supermarkets, is made from Jerusalem stone, which serves as a classic symbol to distinguish the city from all others in the world.
Where does Jerusalem stone come from?
Beneath the mountains and hilltops of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas lay three types of stone – sedimentary limestone, dolomite, and dolomitic limestone. These three varieties are quarried from the highlands and fashioned into Jerusalem stone fit for construction.
The stones are naturally multicolored, ranging from white to beige to pink. The term “Jerusalem of Gold” originated from the glow of the setting sun on the lightly-colored stones, creating a golden-hued reflection.
Because of its association and connection to Jerusalem, many Jewish institutions around the world import Jerusalem stone and incorporate it into their synagogues and Jewish institutions, as a symbol and reminder of Israel and Jewish identity.
The Kotel: Stones of the Western Wall
Known in Hebrew simply as the “Wall” (Kotel), the Western Wall is made from ancient Jerusalem stone much of which dates back to Holy Temple times. Interestingly, almost half of the Kotel’s stones are underground and invisible.
The Kotel is composed of three types of Jerusalem stone from different time periods in the Land of Israel’s history. Each stone of the first seven layers above ground is enormous, weighing between two and seven tons. This section was constructed in the time of King Herod during the Second Temple period. The section of rocks above this consists of significantly smaller rocks which date back to the Muslim period in the eighth century. The top layers of the Western Wall consist of small stones as well, dating from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries.
Stone in Psalms
One of the most famous verses in Psalms (118:22) is translated as follows, “The stone that the builders despised, will be the cornerstone.” This is a Jew’s fervent prayer – although people today may not recognize the greatness and holiness of the stones, these stones will be an essential part of the third and final Holy Temple. We pray that the stones of the Holy Temple will once again usher in an era of peace and shed light on all the nations of the world. We wait for this day, when we will clearly understand how special the stones actually are.