I visited as a stranger to the significance of the Wailing Wall. Certainly I had done my historical research and was familiar with the right words, but nothing could prepare me for the emotionally-charged atmosphere.
Arguable the most sacred relic to the Judaism religion after Temple Mount, the Wailing Wall is all that remains of the magnificent “Second Temple” built in 19 BCE by King Herold with the intention of being the House of God. It is believed that God continues to reside in this Wall.
These are handwritten notes of hopes and sorrows, stuffed into every possible crevice of the Wall in a bid to have the prayers heard. The management of the Wall clears the bits of paper every once in awhile, but they are never thrown away and are instead buried in the Jewish cemetery close by.
Visting the wall is free and open but the usual norms of respect in a religious setting are expected, such as appropriate dressing. Genders are also separated; men on the left, women on the right. I initially went to the wrong side and was gently told I wasn’t quite in the right place.
Yet, this separation is by no means an oppressive one; women lined the separator, looking over to the men’s side, invited by them to participate in their celebrations. It was very much a joint experience along boundaries of respect.
People come to the Wall for many reasons. Here you hear a strange kind of music; the sounds of singing intermingled with the sounds of crying. There were men and women celebrating, singing and dancing in circles, there were others praying, and others, like myself, observing. In this one place, you could very well witness the entire spectrum of human emotional expression.
I made my way to the Wall, and placed a hand on its facade. The rock felt cold and smooth, worn down by the hundreds of years of touches, and seemed almost to be pulsating with emotional memory. In that moment of contact, I was overwhelmed. This Wall had seen so much of human frailty and had withstood so many of its wars, its strengths, its sorrows, its loves.
I was immediately humbled. I was but an observer to the story of its people, and a tiny speck in the history of the world.