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A man looks at a stone that fell off the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/ Nir Elias

(reuters_tickers)

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An elderly worshipper had a close call on Monday when a 100-kg (220 lb) stone suddenly fell from Jerusalem's Western Wall and crashed at her feet.

The Israel Antiquities Authority said the boulder may have been dislodged by erosion caused by vegetation or moisture in the biblical wall, the holiest place where Jews are permitted to pray.

"I didn't hear or feel anything until it landed right at my feet," Daniella Goldberg, a 79-year-old Jerusalem resident who had gone to the wall in the early morning to worship, told Reuters.

A security camera captured the rare occurrence at the site revered by Jews as a remnant of the compound of the Second Temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

One of Islam's holiest sites, the Noble Sanctuary, where al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock stand, lies above.

The footage showed the stone falling from a height of about seven metres (23 feet) in a nearly vacant section of the wall adjacent to its picture-postcard main plaza, where Jewish worshippers traditionally cram written prayers into crevices.

Just a day earlier, worshippers had flocked to the holy site for Tisha B'Av, an annual Jewish day of mourning that marks the destruction of the two Biblical temples in Jerusalem.

"A great miracle occurred when a stone weighing about 100 kilos fell near the worshipper and did not hurt her," Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said in a statement.

The Jerusalem municipality temporarily closed the section for a safety inspection. It is built near piles of boulders believed to date to the time of the Second Temple.

The main Western Wall esplanade remained open.

A 2014 study by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem charted erosion in the different kinds of limestone that make up the Western Wall and said it a problem for engineers concerned about its stability.

(Editing by Ros Russell)

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Reuters