It has always been a dream of mine to visit Israel, to walk the streets of Jerusalem to pray at the Western Wall and float in the Dead Sea. Unfortunately I am afraid, I am afraid to visit the land of my ancestors and that is heart wrenching to me. Just this Tuesday morning Palestinian extremists in Jerusalem attacked Israelis and foreign tourists traveling in a bus on the way to the Western Wall. Rockets were hurled at the vehicle, smashing the windshield of the bus in a deliberate attempt to kill the driver and send the bus into a fatal crash. Although this morning’s attack was unsuccessful a number of similar road terror attacks have successfully murdered and wounded numerous drivers and/or their passengers in the past.
The Western Wall has been a Jewish religious site for hundreds of years but its destruction has been sought after since its construction by King Solomon, who built the First Temple as a place of prayer. “May Your eyes be open day and night toward this House, toward the place of which You have said, ‘My name shall abide there;’ may You heed the prayers which Your servant will offer toward this place. And when You hear the supplications which Your servant and Your people Israel offer toward this place, give heed in Your heavenly abode…” (1 Kings 8:17).
The temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, the land was purchased by King David who expanded the second temple which was then burned by the Romans in 70 CE but legends’ say the west wall still stood. “This is the Western Wall of the Temple, which is never destroyed for the shekhinah [the Divine presence] is in the west” (Bamidbar Rabah 11:63).
The Western Wall was given the name Wailing Wall during the middle ages. Legend says as the Jews gathered lamenting the Temple’s ruin. On the night of, the anniversary of the Temple’s destruction, the dew glistening on the stones as the Wall itself shed tears. The Wailing Wall for years has been subject to semantic indignities. For nineteen years, from 1948 to 1967, the Kotel which is the area surrounding the western wall and the temple mount was under Jordanian rule. Although the Jordanians had signed an armistice agreement in 1949 guaranteeing Jews the right to visit the Wall, not one Israeli Jew was ever permitted to do so. One of the first to reach the Kotel in the 1967 Six-Day War was Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, who inserted a written prayer into the cracks of the Western Wall. It was later revealed that Dayan’s prayer was that of lasting peace “descend upon the House of Israel.”
From then on, the Western Wall became not only a symbol of glories past but, a place to leave a bit of oneself in the form of notes bearing prayers and blessings. I too wish to one day as well write a prayer of lasting peace for all of the Middle East and place it in the cracks of the Wailing Wall. When the time is right I will visit the holy land I will float in the Dead Sea and visit the Wailing Wall but, until then I will pray for peace for all of the Middle East.