The “wailing wall” in Jerusalem. This may be my favorite place on the planet.
Named “el-Mabka”, a place of weeping, in Arabic, Roman history records that after the destruction of the 2nd Temple (year 70 CE), Jews were not allowed to live in Jerusalem, but were allowed to visit the remains of the Temple once a year on the anniversary of its destruction to mourn its loss and the loss of all who died in the Roman-Jewish war.
Nearly 2,000 years later, weeping can still be heard at the Wall, as thousands of pilgrims a day wait for their turn to lean against its stones and unburden themselves of their sorrows. Leaning on those stones gives me a feeling of support and comfort which cannot be explained in logical terms. Like a Jewish Ganges River, the amount of soulful energy given over to The Wall over these last couple of thousand years reverberates in this place and offers the visitor a taste of holiness.
In modern Israel it is called “the Kotel,” the wall, in Hebrew, dropping reference to weeping perhaps because access to the area, denied since 1948, is seen as a victory regained during the 1967 war.
After more than 1,000 years of access to the remains of their 2nd Temple, Jews were denied the ability to worship freely (no temporary use of folding tables or chairs, no candles, and loud noises, including singing or shofar blowing) at the Wall from 1911 until 1948 by an increasingly hostile Arab religious rulers.
In 1948 the state of Israel was founded and access to the Wall was denied completely to Jews but allowed for non-Jews by the Jordanian rule of the area put in place by the UN. Which is why it took a war to open the area to people of all faiths (who are interested in visiting and will respect the Jewish rules of worship in place there).
Muslims changed their name for The Wall from “a place of weeping’ to the “Haiti Al Buraq,” ‘the Buraq wall’, in Arabic during the 1920’s when repeated Jewish attempts to worship at the Wall lead the local Muslim religious leaders to worry that the Jews wanted to confiscate The Wall and all of its surrounding Muslim neighborhoods. This worry lead to gossip, which lead to meetings and organizations to protect Muslim areas from Jews. (This was the 1920’s. There were very few Jews in British Mandate Palestine.) Arabs rioted. There was a massacre of Jews in Hebron. Jews rioted. Mutual fears, distrust and aggression escalated into the foundation of the conflict that continues today. Sigh.
Here is this holy place, welcoming the heavy hearted to rest themselves against the strong and cool stones, softened by the millennia of hands and heads and tears. A monument to comfort those grieving their losses and needing support to carry on.
And right there, in that very place, are hurting angry warriors who need this comfort most of all. The holy air there is also thick with paradox and irony. A place of comfort causing anger and warriors seeking comfort in violence.
We have so much farther to go to establish peace.
And I go to The Wall to gain support from those 2 ton stones worn smooth in places by the struggles of our ancestors to gain strength to continue the work of establishing peace within.