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Jerusalem by foot

"Jerusalem by foot" Continued...

Issue: "Building a city," March 24, 2007

The one place I returned to repeatedly was the Western Wall plaza, in part because of the history and simple beauty of the Wall but also because after walking elsewhere I relished its excellent water fountains and white plastic chairs, perfect seats for resting and seeing some of the divisions of Israeli society.

The variety of clothing is one small sign. Some Wall visitors wear the black suits and broad-brimmed black hats favored by the Orthodox, with white shirts over special undershirts that have four fringes attached to them, in accordance with a Talmudic interpretation of Deuteronomy 22:12. Others are conventionally dressed-and soldiers pray at the Wall with machine guns slung over their shoulders.

The variety of conduct is more important. Some celebrate Bar Mitzvahs at the Wall: Video cameras record a 13-year-old holding a Torah scroll and reciting portions from the prophetic writings of the Old Testament. Then the men typically sing as one carries the Bar Mitzvah boy on his shoulders to the breast-high barrier that divides the men's and women's sections. As Americans throw rice at weddings, so the boy's mother and other women throw into the men's section little wrapped hard candies. Sometimes, some of the haredim at prayer offer up angry "ssshs" that become hisses.

Although a few Israelis seem cavalier at the Wall, others back away from it, not turning their backs on the stones until they leave the closed-in plaza. Many appear to be deep into contemplation, but others ask for spare shekels or talk on cell phones (even though a sign says no begging or phoning is allowed). Still others, poignantly, chant "Moshiach! Moshiach!"-calling in Hebrew for the Messiah to come.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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