While reciting all the various berakhot and prayers, it is permissible to face in any direction. However, when one stands before the King of the world in the Amida, she must turn to face Jerusalem, the place that God chose to manifest His Presence in the world.
One who stands in prayer outside of Eretz Yisrael must face the land and direct her heart toward Jerusalem, the site of the Temple, and the Kodesh Ha-kodashim (the Inner Sanctum of the Temple). If is in Eretz Yisrael, she must face Jerusalem and direct her heart toward the Temple and the Kodesh Ha-kodashim. If she is in Jerusalem, she faces the site of the Temple and directs her heart toward the Kodesh Ha-kodashim (Berakhot 30a; SA 94:1).
Therefore, those reciting the Amida in the women’s section of the plaza facing the Kotel must turn diagonally toward the left, toward the exact site of the Temple.
In synagogues, it is customary to position the aron kodesh (the ark) against the wall that faces Jerusalem, so that those standing in prayer also pray towards the direction of the ark. However, the primary objective is to pray in the direction of Jerusalem. Therefore, if due to error, or because of circumstances beyond control, the ark does not exactly face Jerusalem, the people praying should turn to face the direction of Jerusalem (MB 94:9). Likewise, someone standing in the women’s section must face Jerusalem, even if this is not the direction of the ark (MB 94:10).
One who does not know the direction of Jerusalem may pray in whichever direction she desires while directing her heart towards her Father in heaven (SA 94:3). Even if she subsequently discovers that she was mistaken, she need not repeat her prayer. 1
- MB 94:10 rules that one who mistakenly starts praying in the wrong direction may not change direction, so as not to interrupt her prayer by moving in the middle of the Amida. Only if she is so embarrassed in front of the people around her that it is disturbing her kavana may she move to face Jerusalem (see Kaf Ha-ĥayim 94:7). ↩