Israel 2014 Day 4: The Western Wall
I had always wondered if one day in my life I would finally visit the Western Wall, the most holy site in the world for the Jewish People. And today was that day! We came to Israel on this trip to celebrate with Michal's family, for the Bar-Mitzvah of her young cousin Tomer. Today was his big day and it was just amazing to celebrate with everyone.
We started off with a fun chance to use this cool squeezer thing to make orange juice. "The kids" usually like doing this task, so naturally it fit that I'd love it too. Yep.
|Starting the day with some epic OJ!|
|Tower of David|
|View from the Tower of David|
|Cool model of the Dome of the Rock|
|Walking around and going into museum exhibits|
|Lunchtime = time for silly faces|
|The "monkey face" we invented as we were waiting for lunch|
To the Wall! We walked in, and I have to say... wow. The sight of it! Breathtaking!
|Driving towards the Western Wall|
|Wowowowow we're here!!|
|And... there it is. The Western Wall: the most holy site in the world for the Jewish People. Can't believe I'm here!|
Tears come to your eyes immediately, to see all the other Jewish people there, praying at the wall. Thoughts run through your head about the struggle of the Jewish people over centuries, and the joy that being able to be at this wall is actually possible. I looked at the wall in awe for a few minutes, and then followed the rest of the family into the new and very well-done "Chain of Generations" exhibit.
|Awesome art/history exhibit next to the wall|
From here, we walked outside, past the wall, and to the caves beside and under the wall. This started with an exhibit, showing the original temple in 3D. They did some spin-arounds, to show you the size of the original temple and the remaining Western Wall... and I was surprised to learn there is actually a "Southern Wall" too!
|A 3D model of the Western Wall and what the entire Temple would have looked like|
After the 2nd Temple was destroyed, Muslims built on top of the Temple Mount, and this is where the Dome of the Rock is today. The 6-Day War was when Israel won access to this portion of the wall. Now, why is the Western Wall so important, but no one ever talks about the Southern Wall?! This is because there were 3 portions of the Temple: the Main Entrance, the Sacrificial Location, and the "Kodesh ha Kodeshim" ("Holiest of the Holy"). Only the "Kohain ha Hadol" (the High Priest) could go in there once per year -- the Holiest person on the Holiest day. The Western part of the wall was the closest point to Even ha Shtiya ("The Foundation Stone"), also called "The Drinking Stone" or the "Drink of Life". This is the holiest part of the Temple, and thus the Western Wall became the important pilgrimage point (over, say, the Southern Wall).
We learned stories from the tour guide. Apparently a guy went digging for the 10 Commandments, as he believed them to be in there. After that, the area was sealed off so that people can't dig there. We walked through the caves to see the Kotel ("The Western Wall") up close. Something extra-cool about the tour in the caves is that the more "up" (North) you go along the wall, you get to the closest point to the Foundation Stone. So that was pretty epic.
|In the Western Wall "Tunnels", learning about the history of the site|
|This is AWESOME|
|Thousands of years of history...|
|Along the tunnels|
|The excited organizer exciting the crowds|
|It's Bar-Mitzvah Time!|
|Taking out a Torah from the Aron Kodesh in the Western Wall!|
|It's go time!|
|This is awesome|
|Lots of strangers joining in on the dance|
We continued dancing, lifted Tomer up in a chair, and more dancing and singing followed. It was such a fun experience. After this we walked back to the Aron Kodesh, and I got to open the Aron Kodesh!! That rocked. Our beardy Rabbinical Student fellow fist-bumped me after the Aron Kodesh part. Awesome.
|The Bar-Mitzvah Boy heading back to the Aron Kodesh with the Torah|
|Taking some photos with the crazy (and Canadian!) Rabbi :)|
|Taking time at the Western Wall to reflect|
|This was truly amazing|
Putting one's hands and forehead against the Western Wall for the first time is really an entirely different experience than one you've ever had before. The sun was hot, and the wall was warm and welcoming, powerful... as I thought it would feel, it was like a magnet. I just wanted to keep holding it. I stayed there for quite some time, making "Kohanim Hands" felt like the right thing to do. I could really feel the energy from it, and warmth from the hot sun as well. Thoughts danced through my mind: the struggle, pain, longing, and hope. The ability for a people to survive the harshest and most unfair conditions, extreme hatred, and to respond to this with passion and love for living, and the humility and courage to view the seriousness of life with an attitude of humour and joyfulness. The information I learned yesterday that some people with my last name perished in the Holocaust added even more weight to the situation... "So that you may live". Thousands of years of Jewish history lead me directly to this point. It was really a truly incredible moment.
With tears in my eyes I met the rest of the group, took photos, and said farewell to the wall. I use the word "awesome" a lot, but this thing was truly "awesome" in the exact sense of the word.
|Me and M'Lady|
|A HUGE Mezuzzah leading into the Western Wall area|
From here we took a short drive to Abu Ghosh, a town nearby... yes, it was time for food!!
They started the meal with a bazillion salads: hummus with chickpea, 2 eggplant ones, cabbage, olives, pickles, tabouleh, french fries... it was so good! We had lemonade and water, and then... the meat: very moist chicken, lamb "kebab" (lamb meatballs with parsley in them), and lamb chops. Holy moly!! What a meal!!
|And of course, time to eat!|
|And to end an incredible day, some Baklava :)|