by: Ilse Posselt, BFP News Correspondent
It is a sight singular to Jerusalem. Friday afternoons, when the sun starts its descent, the shops shut their doors tight, the hum of peak traffic quiets to a hush and the sidewalks in the City of Gold fill with people heading in one direction. Fathers with sidelocks walk in step with their young sons, tassels from their tallitot trailing in their wake. Mothers clutch prayer books and the hands of little ones dressed in Shabbat (Sabbath) finery. Groups of yeshiva (religious school) students join the joyful procession flowing to the gates of the Old City, through the tiny alleyways and finally on to the Western Wall.
Here, in the shadow of the ancient stone structure that has stood as the focal point of the Jewish faith for nearly 2,000 years, Jerusalemites gather week after week to welcome the Shabbat with singing, dancing, and prayer.
The Most Sacred Spot in Jewish Faith
The HaKotel HaMa’aravi or the Western Wall arguably tops the must-see list of those who visit Israel’s capital. No trip to the City of Gold is complete without standing in the shade of the majestic stones, shrouded in the fragments of generations of whispered prayers to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Thousands of petitions to the Almighty scrawled on scraps of paper and tucked into the clefts, bear silent witness to those who come here to petition the God Who proves Himself faithful.
Located in the midst of Jerusalem’s Old City, the Western Wall is considered the most significant and holy site in all of Judaism. It is the only structure that remained intact after the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in AD 70 and today continues to stand as the only tangible reminder of the two Temples that once adorned Mount Moriah.
Today, the Western Wall is the religious, cultural and national heartbeat of the Jewish people. No matter the time of day or night, in sunshine or freezing rain, you will always find faithful Jews tucked close to the wall, fingers touching the rough surface, lips moving in praise and petition. The Kotel is also the equivalent of a mammoth outdoor synagogue with daily study and prayer services. And it serves as the ideal spot for special events, such as swearing in ceremonies for the Israel Defense Forces as well as bar and bat mitzvahs.
Building the Wall
The tale of the Western Wall starts in 19 BC, when King Herod decided to renovate and enlarge the Temple compound. Before the rather grandiose project, the Temple took up limited space on Mount Moriah. However, the ambitious king created a great plaza around the Holy Sanctuary, large enough to accommodate the influx of Jews required to visit the Temple on Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles when Jerusalem’s population would swell from 200,000 to 1,000,000.
SOURCE: Bridges for Peace