Saturday, March 14, 2015
WALL OF PRAYERS
Western Wall, Old City Jerusalem, Israel
Wall of Prayers, Old City Jerusalem, Israel
Throughout the ages, the Western or Wailing Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem is where Jews have gathered to express gratitude to God or to pray for divine mercy. It is a relatively small section of the walls surrounding the sacred area called the Temple Mount where the golden Temple of the Dome is located. The Jewish holy temple was built and destroyed twice in ancient history on this site and Jewish people also came to grieve the loss of their temples. There are those who believe that when it is once again rebuilt, this will be one of the prominent signs of the beginning of the end times.
The sandstone walls of nearly three miles surrounding the Old City were finished in 1538 by Suleiman the Magnificent above the ruins of the old first century walls that stood when Jesus walked the narrow cobblestone streets. They glow a spectacular rosy-golden color as the sun sets and rises each day over Jerusalem. The Western Wall section is venerated as possibly the sole remnant of the Holy Temple or at the very least a remnant of the walls surrounding it. It is also the closest of two possible foundation stones where the Holy of Holies, God’s sanctuary, stood when the Temple existed. Since the gate of heaven is near the western Wall, it is also believed that all of Israel’s prayers ascend to heaven from this sacred place.
People of all religions the world over come to the Western Wall to place slips of paper containing written prayers into the crevices of the Wall. More than a million notes are placed there each year. Our group entered the large courtyard behind the Wall in the bright afternoon sunshine. A smaller, seemingly security wall buffered the courtyard from the confines of the Wall and directed pilgrims to the left so that everyone could be better monitored. Loaner head covers were provided for those without any hats, etc.
As I approached the overwhelming Wall above me, I was surprised to find an opening next to a group of orthodox Jewish men dressed entirely in black. They were reciting readings in Hebrew and offering their own personal prayers. A group of young school children further over had arrived and began singing a haunting song in their native tongue. The scene was serene but not totally silent as I had expected. You could see the anticipation on the faces of those of us that were approaching this sacred place known the world over as one of the most recognizable places of prayer on the planet. But this was not a carnival atmosphere for the crowd but one of focused reverence. I had written a short prayer for peace, strength and healing for family, friends and our world. I placed the palm of my left hand on the stone wall and inserted the folded paper into a crevice with my right hand. The man in black next to me continued his worship experience uninterrupted as I slowly backed away. It’s considered disrespectful to immediately turn your back on the Wall as you leave.
As I exited the open air worship area in front of the wall of prayer, I walked over to the temporary wall on the right side of the courtyard. And I once more was drawn back into the reality of this long troubled Holy Land as I observed the armed Israeli soldiers gathered at the ready in the possible event of someone bent on destroying this peaceful gathering of those who only wish to be in communion with their God.