London, April 27 : A part of one of Judaism's holiest sites, Jerusalem's Western Wall, has started crumbling and needs to be fixed to protect worshippers who bow in prayer before the massive ancient stones.
Each year, some six million people visit what is also known as the Wailing Wall, revered by Jews as the remnant of their Second Temple and Israel's biggest tourist attraction.
The rabbi responsible for keeping an eye on the structure has warned that a section repaired more than a century ago is again at risk of falling. Since the weakened stonework is high on the 60ft wall, the danger from any falling fragment to the crowds who pray at its foot each day is particularly acute.
"We found that the stones at the bottom of the wall, the stones from the Second Temple period, were strong and stable. However, we discovered that there are problems with the smaller stones, those at the top of the wall," The Telegraph quoted Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, as saying.
His caution comes after Israel hosted record numbers of tourists for the Passover holiday and prepares for high-profile visitors for the 60th anniversary of its founding, next month.
World leaders including the American President, George W Bush, the former Prime Minister Tony Blair, and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, are to be joined by others such as the Google founder, Sergey Brin, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerman at a conference hosted by Israel's president, Shimon Peres.
Israel's Antiquities Authority has said there is no immediate risk to visitors, since the heavy winter rains have passed.
However, the repair work is to begin almost immediately, to ensure it is completed before the return of worse weather in the autumn.