A trip to Israel would not be complete without visiting the Old City of Jerusalem. The experience of walking through the four quarters-Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Armenian- is an unforgettable experience that should not be missed. So many traditions are intertwined into a relatively small area that is filled with cultural diversity. Walking through one of the massive stone gates takes you back in time.
During our November visit, I observed another perspective by taking a tour on top of the wall. We climbed on top of the ramparts to get a spectacular view of the city beyond the walls and to see inside the city. Like other ancient walled cities, Jerusalem used a massive wall structure to ward off its enemies. In this case, the list of aggressors covered different points in time. Despite these intense battles, sections of the Old City wall remain. We were lucky, we had this upper pathway almost all to ourselves. It offered incredible views- both inside and outside the perimeter.
Strolling from one point to the other provided different vantage points.
After scaling down the stone steps, we walked toward the spot of the Temple. We stopped to take this picture.
Jews around the world flock to the Western Wall, the only part of the Temple that was not destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. Each time I come to Jerusalem, I am overwhelmed by the magnitude of its appearance and the historical and religious implications.
Since I am not an Orthodox Jew, I find it a bit uncomfortable to be segregated from my husband. I respect the Orthodox traditions, but at the same time call into question the way the Orthodox leadership handles the women who choose to take a more liberal approach to their Judaism. A compromise situation will hopefully be reached sometime in the future. It is disconcerting to read about Jewish women being forcibly removed and detained for merely wearing a tallit (prayer shawl), reading from the Torah, or blowing a shofar. (Women of the Wall)
The women’s area was filled when I arrived. It was a challenge to find a space close to the Wall. Looking up at the rectangular slabs of stone, I couldn’t help but think about all of the Jews who lost their lives simply because they were Jewish. I crumbled up the prayer that I had written and tucked into a small crevice that was already bursting with other pieces of paper. Women were softly whispering Hebrew prayers on either side of me.
After a few moments of private reflection, I rejoined my husband in the common area. Jacob Firsel, our guide, shared a picture of Ira leaning against the wall. After all that has happened the last few years, I knew Ira was thrilled to have the chance to spend a few quiet moments reflecting at the Wall.
Like my fellow Jews around the world, I look forward to singing “Next Year in Jerusalem” during our Passover seder in March.