History Lesson: Weeping at the Western Wall

After mere minutes of walking through the Jerusalem market, I found myself outside Israel’s holiest place – and I haven’t even heard of it. The street had led directly from the Jaffa Gate to the Western Wall and we were now outside the Plaza which housed it.

Kosher scanning machines barred the entrance as did signs requesting covered shoulders. The debate and controversy over the wall meant serious security risks; its importance to so many religions demanded respect.

The Significance of the Wall

In Judaism, the Weeping Wall is the only surviving remnant of the Jewish Temple, built by King David’s son Solomon, said to be located on the mount where Abraham went to sacrifice his son Isaac, where Jacob slept, and where God chose the divine presence to rest (Isa 8:18).

However, known as the Buraq Wall in Islam, it is also the location of where the Prophet Muhammed tied the winged Buraq, a prophet-transporting steed, upon which he ascended to heaven[1].

Historically speaking, the structure, rebuilt by Herod 2,000 years ago, was burned to the ground by the Romans in the year 68/70 CE (sources differ) after the Great Revolt, the first of three rebellions of the Jews against the Romans[2].

Only the Western Wall was left untouched.

The Wall Today

Today the Wall is a source of friction between the two religions as it straddles the Jewish and Muslim Quarters of the Old City; due to its significance however, it is still the most touristed place within Israel.

It is the most important place for Jews. “Weddings, bar mitzvahs, they all come through here.” – Itai

Booths with pens and small pieces of paper line the short stone fence that separates the men and women, and prayer messages are scribbled down before being wedged in the wall’s crevices.

Even though I’ve only barely heard of this, I join in. On the lined piece of paper I jot down a motto I hope to live by, and a wish, a prayer requested of me from home. The wall is lined with people praying, bowing, touching, crying. It is covered with wads of crumpled prayers sticking out like discarded gum.

I wedge mine in.

I touch the wall and try to comprehend that I am standing in front of history. I do not weep, but say my thanks.

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