Bar Mitzvah celebration
Amazing wall of wisteria
Jerusalem, pronounced in Hebrew as ye-ru-sha-lime. It is called that because of it’s awe (yira’ah or “G-d will see”) and its completeness or perfection (shalem). And that it is. A complex, thriving, multi-cultural city where a frum Hassid stands next to a modern Israeli girl in a short skirt and no head covering and all is well with the world.
Conquered by King David in the 8th year of his reign (861 BCE), Jerusalem was originally built by King Solomon on the site of the binding of Isaac (1677 BCE). It is a spiritual epicenter drawing all that is holy there and emanating all that is holy from it.
We began this glorious day with a typical Israeli breakfast in the David Citadel Hotel (salads, cheeses, some egg dishes, and a few carbs). I was in heaven. Love that way of starting a new day. Soon we were loading up on the buses and heading towards the Jewish Quarter.
As we exited the buses, we were greeting with a musical party out front of the exit area, where a young man was starting his Bar Mitzvah celebration. Men were dancing around and on top of the van that was blasting music. The excitement was contagious and some of our group had to join them.
Soon we were on out way, however. Patrick walked us through the Jewish Quarter, showing us synagogues, various sections of the Cordo, and other sites along the way.
The Cordo is what remains of an ancient north-south artery that wound its way through the Roman-Byzantine Jerusalem and served as a marketplace (146 BCE to 1464 CE), a kind of ancient mall as it were. Much of this area has been unearthed in recent years revealing layers of the remains of those centuries.
Eventually, we stopped in a lovely courtyard and enjoyed the laughter and socializing. Some bought the inevitable falafel for lunch. Others just enjoyed an ice-cream.
Eventually, we ended at the Jerusalem Archeological Park on the North side of the Temple Mount, on the slope of the Mount of Olives, and with the Kidron Valley bordering on the east. Large excavations have unearthed some impressive finds. During the temple period this would have been the site of those selling animals for sacrifice. Several mikvahs have been unearthed where those wishing atonement could take a cleansing bath before entering the temple.
Herodian stone is manifest everywhere. It’s unique style is evident when you see it on the different layers of the walls in this area of Jerusalem, even in the underground excavations.
Late in the afternoon, all of the groups met at the Western Wall. Words fail me in expressing how powerful that experience is/was. There is a holy energy there, a knowing that one is as close to the Divine as one can be on this planet. Certainly, part of it is the location, but I believe that part of it is because of the energy emanating there from all the souls seeking G-d. All I know is that I have waited a lifetime for that moment and it was and always will be one of the most special moments in my life.
Yes, I left a note in The Wall and I have no doubt that my prayers will be answered. After praying, I took a moment and peeked over the wall to the men’s area and took a couple of pictures.
For those that do not understand this “division,” it is because in Jewish thought, men are more carnal, easier distracted from spiritual things. Therefore, having women close by while they are praying is not conducive to deep meditation. So, the women pray on one side and the men another. This is also true in Orthodox synagogues.
Two of the photos are of a young Israeli and a frum gentleman praying side by side. Eventually, the young man walked away and I snapped a picture of the older man. There was something that touched my soul by him. Later, when I spoke to the rabbi about him, he told me that this man comes to the Kotel every day and he has some mental issues. It made the moment even more poignant for me—one lone soul, struggling with his humanity, seeking the Divine. I think the photo speaks for itself.
As the sun began to set, we all returned to the hotel. After a shower and changing into something suitable for the cooler evening, a group of about 8 folks from our bus headed to a dairy restaurant. It was charming. The tables outside were lit with candles and the ambiance was perfect. We all ate an amazing meal, some having fish, others pasta, and I chose a grilled cheese with tomatoes and pesto with a killer salad on the side.
Then it was off to bed. The last photo is a view from my room’s balcony.