A large stone has fallen from Jerusalem’s Western Wall, narrowly avoiding a woman who was praying at the holy site.
The Jerusalem Post says the incident happened early Monday local time, with prayer platforms in the area likely to be closed for some time while engineers assess the ancient structure.
CCTV footage captured the incident, with the 79-year-old woman Daniella Goldberg telling reporters she did not “feel or hear or feel anything” until the stone – thought to weigh about 100 kilograms – landed at her feet.
“There was a big hole in the floor as you can see, in the deck, the boards of the stairs were even broken,” she said. “I didn’t understand where it fell from. I looked high up, it’s all intact up there.”
She told Israeli TV that she had “tried not to let the incident distract me from my prayers” and refused to be drawn on whether divine providence had spared her. “May we all be blessed,” she said.
The security footage shows the stone falling from about seven metres up in a nearly vacant section of the wall next to the famous main plaza.
According to the ABC, Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich said the falling rock was unusual – nothing similar had happened in decades.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said it was “a great miracle” the stone did not harm the worshipper.
“We are talking about [an ancient] structure that is under the process of natural erosion, together with nature’s harms,” he said.
“We don’t know exactly why this thing happened. Routine maintenance work is needed, which must be funded by the state of Israel if this asset is important to it.”
The falling rock came a day after the prayer plaza was filled with thousands of worshippers for the Tisha B’Av fast.
The Jerusalem Engineer’s office has closed the prayer platform next to the wall, and the Israel Antiquities Authority will conduct a survey of the stones above the site.
Despite the incident, the structure of the wall was a testament to its original builders, Antiquities Authority director Israel Hasson said.
“I wish that everybody could have a builder who would construct such buildings that a stone falls only after 2000 years,” he said.
The Jerusalem Post said if it is found that other stones are in danger of falling, then it will take some time to secure each stone. The process will be complicated by Jewish law covering construction work on the former Temple complex.
There are already gaps in the Western Wall where large stones have crumbled in the past. In 2004, large pieces of stone fell in the main prayer plaza, injuring a worshipper, after metal objects inserted into cracks by birds led to erosion.
In 2014, a major study found some parts of the wall are eroding 100 times faster than others, potentially undermining the stability of the ancient site. The study said the biggest problems were due to fine-grained limestone that crumbles more readily after exposure to water.