Friday, January 23, 2009

The Wailing Wall

This is perhaps one of the most recognizable images in the world: the Dome of the Rock behind the Wailing Wall, and of course me cheesing it up in the foreground:
The gold dome is the Dome of the Rock, a memorial to where Muslims believe that Mohommad ascended into heaven to talk with God (Allah). That wall, right in front of the dome, is the Wailing wall, one of the last remaining walls of the Second Temple. If you look hard, you can see people right in front of the wall - those are Orthodox Jews praying. Many pray that the temple will be reestablished in this place. Of course, that isn't cool with the Muslims whose 3rd most holy place is right in the middle of what the Jews believe should be the 3rd temple. Eek. ALl of this conflict, all of this war over the Holy Lands - radiates from right in this spot.
A closer view of the Wailing Wall. Because it was Shabbat the day we visited, I couldn't take pictures any closer.
Our guide gave us each a piece of paper to write prayers on. The tradition is to write your prayers and then stick them in the crevices of the wall. Many of the Orthodox Jews believe that anything that touches the wall becomes holy, and that prayers are 'more heard' if they are pressed into the wall. (on a side note, there are actually organizations where you can email or fax a prayer in and they will print them out and put them in the wall, just in case you can't make it there in person!) Anyway, I squeezed as many prayers as I could on to my piece of paper, folded it and then placed it in a crack in the wall. I also put my hands on the wall, as I saw the other women around me doing, and prayed really hard for peace.
It was an amazing experience to be at a place that is considered the very most Holy by so many people - but it is also overwhelming to see how adamant people are about it - it is not a rational thing, it is not something that people will compromise about --- and it makes peace extremely complicated. My little piece of paper was one of millions and millions stuck into the wall, and I know some people were praying for probably the exact opposite thing that I was. Oh, Jerusalem.
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