Jews praying at the Wailing Wall. Exciting and thrilling. Amazing pictures
There’s a beautiful tradition at the Western Wall, and here’s how it works: write a prayer on a piece of paper and stuff it in a crack in the wall. Every few days, a caretaker collects all the prayers and buries them on the Mount of Olives in a 2,000-year-old cemetery.
Every written prayer at the Wall becomes an ‘eternal prayer.’ It’s a beautiful tradition, and even Pope John Paul II has placed a prayer in the cracks.
I, too, placed a prayer in the Western Wall, on a piece of paper the size of a quarter. On it, I wrote the most powerful one-word prayer in the world, a Jewish word: Shalom. While there isn’t an English word that well-defines it, shalom means peace, completeness, wholeness, and oneness.
Reality and History of Western Wall:
The Western Wall was subjected to far worse than semantic indignities. During the more than one thousand years Jerusalem was under Muslim rule, the Arabs often used the Wall as a garbage dump, so as to humiliate the Jews who visited it.
For nineteen years, from 1948 to 1967, the Kotel 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 helped revive a traditional Jewish custom by inserting a written petition into its cracks. It was later revealed that Dayan’s prayer was that a lasting peace “descend upon the House of Israel.”
The custom of inserting written prayers into the Kotel’s cracks is so widespread that some American-Jewish newspapers carry advertisements for services that insert such prayers on behalf of sick Jews. The mystical qualities associated with the Kotel are underscored in a popular Israeli song, a refrain of which runs: “There are people with hearts of stone, and stones with hearts of people.” A rabbi in Jerusalem once told me that the Hebrew expression “The walls have ears” was originally said about the Western Wall.
Unfortunately, even a symbol as unifying as the Kotel can become a source of controversy in Jewish life. Ultra-Orthodox Jews have long opposed organized women’s prayer services at the Wall; prayer services they maintain, may only be conducted by males. On occasion they have violently dispersed such services, throwing chairs and other “missiles” at the praying women. Under intense public pressure however, the right of women to pray collectively at the Kotel is gradually being won.
In addition to the large crowds that come to pray at the Kotel on Friday evenings, it is also a common gathering place on all Jewish holidays, particularly on the fast of Tisha Be-Av, which commemorates the destruction of both Temples. Today the Wall is a national symbol, and the opening or closing ceremonies of many Jewish events, including secular ones, are conducted there.