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I was at the Western Wall late one evening. It was quite empty. In addition to my small group of friends (five of us in all), the only people there were a few of the ubiquitous soldiers, a group of Yeshiva (seminary) students, and a college or high school group from the United States. The Yeshiva group was exclusively males, as Orthodox Judaism allows only males to become rabbis, and the US group was co-ed. They weren’t mixing, so there was no trouble at first.
The Yeshiva students formed a circle and began singing and dancing. I was moved, thinking how anemic my own liberal Protestant worship forms were. At some point, a young woman from the US group began dancing also. The Yeshiva teacher began yelling at her with such an intensity that it got a bit scary. The US group’s chaperone herded the group off somewhere else.
This all happened while my group was standing back in the plaza overlooking the large area beneath the wall itself. This spooked us enough that we just went back to our hotel. Later in our tour (the next day maybe), the entire tour group of about 150 went to the Western Wall. Those of us who wished went into the area right up at the wall. I couldn’t help thinking about the exclusivity of the entire spatial arrangement. Men on the left side, women on the right, Jews and vistors at the bottom of the wall, Muslims and visitors at the top of the wall where the Dome of the Rock is.
All in all, my feelings about the place are still very ambiguous.over 6 years ago
The Western Wall is holy to the Jewish people because it is thought to be the only remnant of the Temple in Jerusalem and the one wall located closest to the Holy of Holies, the holiest site in Judaism. The Wall has become the holiest site accessible to Jews, since according to Jewish law entry to the Dome of the Rock, site of the Foundation Stone where the Holy of Holies was located during Temple times, together with the rest of the Temple Mount, is now forbidden under the pain of Karet (Divinely hastened death).
The First Temple or Solomon’s Temple was built in the 10th century BC. It was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, the Second Temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire in the year 70 CE as a result of the First Jewish-Roman War. Each Temple stood for a period of about four centuries.
According to Judaism’s religious texts, when the legions of Titus destroyed the Temple, only a part of an outer court-yard “western wall” remained standing. Jewish texts teach that Titus left it as a bitter reminder to the Jews that Rome had vanquished Judea. The Jews, however, attributed it to a promise made by God that some part of the holy Temple would be left standing as a sign of God’s unbroken bond with the Jewish people in spite of the catastrophes which had befallen them.
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