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This Tisha B'av morning I was at the Kotel for shachrit, and I noticed a whole bunch of people sleeping there. I'm not talking about people who nodded off during slichot due to low blood sugar, I'm talking about dozens and dozens of people who clearly spent the night there. Many were stretched out on blankets or sleeping mats. (I didn't see any pillows). A Jpost article has a picture if you want to see, and there were also mentions of the practice here, here, and here.

However, I cannot find anything about the origins of this practice. I know there is a tradition to sleep on a hard floor on Tisha B'av (which the kotel provides), but I feel like there has to be more to it than that. Does anyone know when and how this started? Was it ever done pre-1948 or is it a post-1967 phenomena?

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it seems more practical than a minhag,ppl prob want to stay there for davening in morning – sam Aug 6 '14 at 2:45
I've davened at the kotel vatikin on Shavuot, and I didn't see anyone sleeping there. Minhag may be the wrong word - perhaps practice would be better. – Bachrach44 Aug 6 '14 at 6:48

This is based on my own surmisal:

Pirkei Avot 5 mishna 8:

Ten miracles were performed for our fathers in the Temple ...

No man said to his fellow, "There is no room for me to lodge in Jerusalem."

Note that it states "lodging", and some commentaries explain that during the Bet Hamikdash, when people came for Regel (3 times / yr. "pilgrimage") there was always lodging.

Now, without the Bet Hamikdash, and no regel, there is "no place to lodge", or no one asks anyone about this. (Metaphorically, not practically.)

So, "lodging" at the place of the Bet Hamikdash, perhaps, is a way of demonstrating not just the loss of the Bet Hamikdash itself, but one of the miracles that occurred because of it?

The reader may infer that the request for lodging was during regel, however, this is not explicitly stated in the literal wording of the mishnah. Either way, we are mourning the lack of the Bet Hamikdash, and hence, the consequences of not having it.

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