I typed this up while I was staying in Jerusalem last week, and am just now getting around to posting it.
Our tour group wound its way through the narrow, stone streets of Jerusalem. At every turn, I craned my neck hoping to be the first to catch a glimpse of the ancient wall that is the only remainder of the Second Temple. Suddenly, we entered a doorway, and there it was–The Western Wall–exactly as I had seen it in pictures. The wall loomed above the people praying at its base. They each swayed to their own rhythm; the men wrapped in their white tallits and the women burying their faces in their siddurs.
We walked closer and separated: men to the left side and women to the right. I was shocked at the wave of emotion that hit me as I walked closer to the Wall. I am not an openly emotional person, and so I separated myself from the group in an effort to conceal the tears.
All around me, women were praying, some silently, some loudly sobbing. I rolled the note I had written as I inched closer to the wall. Picking at a corner of the paper, I waited for an opening. The girl in front of me backed away from the wall, and I slid into her spot. The cracks in the wall were packed with folded bits of papers covered in the prayers of the countless women who had come before me. I poked and prodded my note until it stayed where I had placed it.
Laying my hand against the ancient stones, I was shocked at its coldness. It’s coolness was a welcome relief to the day’s heat, and I rested my head upon them as I prayed. Oblivious to those around me, I was only focused on my prayers that I was saying at the base of where the temple once stood. As I finished, I backed away and my spot was quickly filled in like wet sand.
Being careful not to turn my back, I walked backwards gazing at the looming tan stones. I was in awe that I had just prayed at the very site that every Jew in the world hopes to one day visit. This experience will stay with me for days to come. And the saying shana haba b’yerushalayim–next year in Jerusalem–has an entirely new meaning for me. Because this year, I was there. I made it.