The Kotel Ha-Katan (Small Kotel) is the continuation of the "Large" Kotel and almost exactly faces the Holy of Holies
The Kotel Ha-Katan is a small portion of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, which is exposed (with no houses covering it). It is located approximately 200 meters south of the Western Wall Plaza, and next to Sha'ar Ha-Barzel (the Iron Gate). The Kotel Ha-Katan is close to the middle point of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, and it is the place second closest to the Holy of Holies (outside of the Temple Mount) where Jews can pray. The closest location is within the Kotel Tunnels, and is exactly facing the Holy of Holies.
Visitors to the Kotel Ha-Katan are able to experience what the Kotel was like before they greatly expanded its plaza, since the narrow alleyway – the Kotel Ha-Katan Plaza – is only about three meters wide. The Kotel Ha-Katan is also much lower than the Kotel, since the majority of its height is covered by dirt. Only two of its rows from the Hadrian Period are exposed (as opposed to the twelve rows of the Kotel). Far fewer people frequent this holy site than visit the Kotel.
The Kotel Ha-Katan Plaza is comprised of two small courtyards, which contain a small, enclosed structure which was used in the past as a bathroom onto the Kotel itself. Tradition relates that a few generations ago the prophet Eliyahu appeared to one of Jerusalem's Rabbis on the spot. Another version claims the Divine Presence itself appeared here to Rabbi Avraham Ha-Levi Beruchim, a student of the Arizal. The structure built to mark this holy spot became a place for Jews to pray. It was later desecrated by Arab residents of the courtyard, who used the structure as a bathroom onto the Kotel itself.
The Kotel Ha-Katan returned to the public's attention in 1972. At the beginning of that year, the excavations of the Kotel Tunnels reached under the small plaza, causing concern about the structural safety of the houses near the Kotel Ha-Katan. The engineers, who worked for the State of Israel, requested stabilizing the houses. During the course of their work, on February 11th, the workers drilled four holes into the Kotel Ha-Katan to provide bar supports for the adjacent house.
This desecration of the holy stones of the Kotel caused an uproar throughout the country, bringing its attention to the "Little Kotel." Fragments of the stones were collected for safekeeping by the Rav of the Kotel, Ha-Rav Yehudah Getz. The Muslim Wafq also protested the desecration of the Kotel, and the engineer was forced to build supports that did not rest on the Kotel itself.
Over the years, there have been many incidents between those praying at the Kotel Ha-Katan and the Muslim residents of the courtyard. In the 1980's, the State of Israel confiscated an apartment in the courtyard which belonged to a member of a Palestinian terror organization, in order to establish a police presence there. At a ceremony in 1999, in which many public figures participated, the Minister of Internal Security, Avigdor Kahalani declared that the police station would open soon. These plans have yet to come to fruition, however, and the apartment remains empty.
At the end of the 1990's and the beginning of the year 2000, many conflicts erupted between the Jews who prayed there and the residents of the courtyard. Over the last few years, order has been preserved and Jews come to visit and pray there all year long, especially on Shabbat and holidays. Individuals as well as organized groups come to visit, and the students of Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim daven Minchah there each Shabbat.
Because of the sensitive nature of the place and the great tension between the Jewish visitors and the Muslim residents, the police have not allowed any physical changes of the area, such as permanent benches, bookcases, etc. The police occasionally allow "furniture" to be brought in for a short period. Despite repeated attempts by different groups, the State has not declared the spot a "Holy Place," and it is therefore under the supervision of the police and not the Rav of the Kotel.