Jewish people from all over the world endeavor to make pilgrimage to their holiest site at least once in a lifetime. It is a world-renowned, strong, standing symbol of the Old City and ancient times – the Western Wall or in Hebrew HaKotel. In reality, this Wall is a remnant of the retaining foundation of the Temple built by Herod the Great during the first century BC. It surrounded the Second Temple as an enclosure.
The Western Wall is the only remainder of their destroyed Temple and their days of glory in this Land, promised by covenant, where they could worship and make sacrifice through the blood of animals and the guidance of the High Priest. Through thousand of years of exile and persecution from their homeland, religious Jews still face in the direction of the Kotel during their prayers.
The Torah tells us that the holy presence of God abides forever at the Western Wall. Every time, I have prayed at there, I have felt God’s spirit enveloping, stirring, and moving among those who are making their heart’s desires known to Him. It is interesting to note that this scripture also says God hears the prayers that arise to Him from that spot! I love that!
The LORD said to him:
“I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there” (I Kings 9:3).
Jews traditionally mourn the loss of their Temple when they make pilgrimage to this holy site. That is how it gained the name, the “Wailing Wall” years ago.
There is a huge open plaza in front of the Wall divided into two sections for men and women — each praying or reading the Torah in their own way. You will see many Jewish activities at this sacred place from Orthodox Jews garbed in solid black reading their Jewish Bibles, tourists snapping photos, women pressing their heads and hearts near the ancient stones with tears running down their faces, and Israeli soldiers praying for peace and protection. It is customary for Jewish people and visitors, no matter their religious background, to write a note of prayer on a small paper and slip it between the cracks. I do this each time I go and love the tradition of it.
The Western Wall is also a favorite place for traditional Jewish celebrations and holidays like bar- and bat-mitzvahs, photos for weddings, and remembering the Sabbath and holy days.
I wrote the following poem after a visit to the Western Wall and as I observed an immigrant from the former Soviet Union pouring her heart out there. It was a very touching moment that I am very grateful to have silently and reverently observed and recorded.
Call at the Western Wall
Today I prayed at the Western Wall.
First I gazed upon the stones
built by Herod,
built by Ottoman Turks,
cold and hard conduits of heaven.
Desperate, I pressed my cheek against
the ancient foundation,
Old World touching mine.
The Wall uttered not a word, breathed
not a sigh of connection.
But a perpetual abiding warmed my heart.
Suddenly, Spirit to spirit, Deep to deep,
unfathomable love penetrated the inanimate depth,
and I began to offer my true prayer
First I asked for Jerusalem’s peace,
Then for the death-camp survivor on my right,
whose desperate prayer exceeded my own.
I saw her tears stain the Wall
as she pressed heartache and horrors into cold stones.
Heal her tormenting memories, I prayed.
Truth upon beautiful feet speed;
pursue her soul and
send relief by knowledge of hope
and New Life.
But who will be sent,
who will go to her with
Am I the answer to my prayer?
Please, send me.
What language does she speak?