For the offical word on the renovations (including a flash tour of the planned changes before they were complete click here
and then click on the "Renovation of the Prayer Hall of the Western Wall" link.)
Here is the text found on that site:
The Prayer Hall at the Western Wall, at Wilson's Arch
, is the easternmost vault of the Great Bridge that dates back to the Second Temple period. Hundreds of thousands of visitors and worshippers pass through this place 365 days a year. It is the only enclosed and covered area for prayer at the Western Wall.
After several years of restoration work, it has been decided to renovate and upgrade the central hall and the halls and rooms extending from it.
By doing so, the hall would be able to serve as a comfortable and elegant enclosed prayer sanctuary as befitting a place of prayer so close to the holy Temple site. The women's section of the prayer hall
currently has enough room for only 20-30 women at a time who come daily to pray in this area. Likewise, in inclement weather, when Bar Mitzva ceremonies are held in the Wilson's Arch sanctuary, the small women's section is the only option available. Therefore, a plan has been devised to expand this vital area. New furnishings for the entire prayer hall
are planned, as well as a proper air conditioning system and ample lighting,
so that this sanctuary is both attractive and comfortable to sit in and pray.
The plan to make the sanctuary one befitting the prayer hall adjacent to the Western Wall includes designing and building a magnificent Holy Ark
appropriate for such an extraordinary location. This would replace the arks that are in poor condition, many of which are not safe for holding Torah scrolls. Likewise, a room to contain the various Holy Arks
that store the many Torah scrolls used on Mondays and Thursdays, Shabbatot and Festivals at the Western Wall will be built in one of the halls adjacent to the prayer hall. A room designated for scribes
who work at the Western Wall meticulously proofreading and emending Torah scrolls will be built in an ancient and beautiful internal hall adjacent to the prayer hall. In addition, another ancient hall will be renovated and refurbished to serve as a central library of holy books
that should, undoubtedly, be near the remnant of our Temple. Our intent is to also devise and install stylized bookcases that will be designed specifically for storing the many books that are necessary in the prayer hall itself (prayer books, Bibles, books of Psalms, etc…) in various versions that exist and are used.
Due to all of the renovations and developments taking place at and around the Western Wall Plaza, a modern and advanced electricity room
is planned that will be able to efficiently handle the load of the additional lighting and other electrical needs.
To help sponsor any of these meaningful and significant projects, call 212 725 0598.
Here are some more pictures.
As you can see the Aron has now been unwrapped and on display in its full glory.
In the redone back room as well.
Sifrah Torah and Klafim stored here when not in use.
A staircase to the Ezrat Nashim. There is another way in from the top and my sister tried finding it. But the gaurd told us "it's closed now and is only open till 8" - not sure what he meant by that.
However he told use there is another new Ezrat Nashim on the ground level of the men's tunnel. It's in the back - and I didn't even notice it till he pointed it out.
My sister took this photo from inside.
Guess this is the "modern and advanced electricity room" they were talking about.For more photos click here.