We are in that part of our tour of Israel – getting near the end – when everything more or less melds together and you can’t remember what you did when or where. These trips involve some serious sensory overload.
Today we did some amazing things. First we went to the Western Wall, probably the most sacred spot for Jews in Israel. Years ago people referred to it as the Wailing Wall, but no longer. It is what remains of the wall surrounding the Temple compound back in the days of Jesus, the wall constructed at the time of King Herod. It is most sacred because it is the spot that remains that is closest to what was at the time the Holy of Holies within the temple itself (i.e., it is not a wall of the temple, but of the temple complex). The Temple complex was enormous – large enough to fit 25 (American) football fields (which, among other things, makes it very hard indeed to think that Jesus actually shut down the entire Temple service by overturning a few tables and leveling charges against those selling animals; the Gospels surely exaggerate at that point….)
In any event, anyone can go up (or rather, down) to the wall; men on one side, women on the other. One doesn’t have to be Jewish, but one is to have a head covering if a man. People do pray standing right up against the wall, and many write prayers on small slips of paper and place them in cracks in the wall. It is popular to have bar mitzvahs there; last time I was here I saw one there, the young boy reading the Hebrew Torah in front of him with stunning fluency.
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