The Kotel plaza sees a steady stream of visitors. Tourists and locals, young and old, Jews and non-Jews alike. They come to pour out their hearts, write a note to G‑d, press their lips against the ancient stones. They pray, dance, sing, laugh and cry. But amidst all this vibrant humanity, one element of the Kotel is usually overlooked: the wall itself is pulsating with life.

If you listen closely, you may hear birdsong mingling with the prayers. The swift builds its nest in the crevices near the top of the wall. Swifts are migratory birds, arriving in Israel during the month of February in huge flocks. The prophet Jeremiah notes, “The turtledove, the swift and the crane observe the time of their coming.”1 Indeed, these birds never fail to arrive at the Kotel right on time!

Then there are the sparrows. Psalms (84:4) declares, “Even the sparrow finds its home and the free bird her nest where she laid her young.” The sparrow is called the “free bird” because, although it can live very close to man, it is impossible to domesticate. The Talmud specifies that the sparrow’s blood was used to purify lepers.2

We can hear the familiar turtledove’s cooing. Could this bird be the incarnation of G‑d’s presence (called the Shechinah) on earth, as some believe? The dove is the most persecuted bird, and so it is frequently found in the Bible and Talmud as a metaphor for the nation of Israel.

And let us not forget the plant kingdom—no less than seven different plants call the Kotel their home. The ephedra provides red berries for bird gourmets, and produces ephedrine, an alkaloid used in pharmacology to treat diseases of the bronchi. The golden henbane is described by the Jewish historian Josephus, who compares its blossom to the tiara of the high priest.

Their neighbor, the horsetail knotgrass, exposes its tiny pinkish-white flowers. According to the Mishnah, it was used as an antidote against snakebites. The thorny caper, with its large white flowers and cucumber-like fruits, is also found here. The Talmud notes that the caper bears fruit every day, and that all other trees will do the same during the era of Moshiach.3

Finally, one last wild creature peeks out surreptitiously between the ancient stones, emitting a curious sound (“tzit-tzit”) before vanishing. The agile and hyperactive gecko is mentioned in the book of Proverbs (30:28), and the Talmud (Shabbat 77b) gives it as a natural remedy for scorpion bites: grind two geckos, one light-colored and one dark, then place the powder on the wound. Fortunately, no scorpion has ever been found near the Kotel!

Human, animal, vegetable and mineral. Here at this most holy place, all four levels of existence blend together in perfect harmony.