Breakfast at the Waldorf Astoria certainly measures up! The options were varied, colorful, and numerous. I went rogue with lasagne, ravioli, pomegranate seeds, pineapple, coffee, and carrot juice. Dan was not quite as brave.
We started our day with a visit to the 2,037 year old Western Wall (Wailing Wall), the most religious site in the world where Jewish people can pray. This ancient limestone wall in the Old City of Jerusalem is actually just a small section (160 feet by 60 feet) of one of four retaining walls that date back to the days of King Herod (Herod the Great). A portable divider in the Western Wall’s open-air plaza separates access to the wall into a side reserved for men and one for women. It would be a sign of disrespect for men, Jewish or otherwise, to approach the wall without a head covering. For those who come unprepared yarmulkes are available to use for free. Shawls are available for women who feel they did not dress modestly enough. Prayer books are available for those who did not bring one of their own. Placing slips of paper with written prayers into the cracks of the Western Wall is a common practice. Dan and I each placed a prayer into a crack of the wall.
The Western Wall is wildly popular for Jewish ceremonies and celebrations as well as prayer making it a happy yet reverent place all at the same time. While we were there hundred were in quiet contemplation while others waved balloons, blew rams’ horns, sang, clapped, and played musical instruments. The Wall is open 24/7.
Excavation has gone on under what is now an old Arab neighborhood to see how much more of the 1,601 foot Western Wall can be accessed. We were lucky to get tickets to explore the excavation tunnels known as the Western Wall tunnels. Fantastic, short, computer-generated films explained the history of the coveted area and how it changed dramatically as one group of people after the next made changes, additions, and deletions to this sacred mountain top. We continued on through the tunnels until we came to a section of wall (underground) that is fully excavated and open for prayer and another area large enough that a small, simple area for worship has been set aside. Dan and I each added another prayer to the wall down there. As we made our way to the exit we were treated to another quick animated film showing the mechanics of how the walls were built in the first place.
A short visit to the Jerusalem Archaeological Park was interesting. There were a few reproductions of large rudimentary tools that helped move and place the gigantic stones used in the construction of the Old City. There was a section of the ancient market place that had been excavated down to the street level in Jesus’ time. The truly astonishing thing is how much rubble and debris the workers had hauled off in order to expose this area many stories below the current street level.
Before being let loose to wander on our own we visited the Crusaders’ 12th century Church of the Flagellation, the second station of the cross, with its austere front and stunning crown of thorns ceiling. We then followed Via Dolorosa to find stations three, four, and five of the cross.
A great dinner was followed by a remarkable evening at the Tower of David where we watched the ancient Citadel walls come to life with a sound and light show that told the story of Jerusalem and the rise of David from shepherd to king.
… Enquiring Minds Want to Know …
On average an Hasidic Jew marries between the ages of 18-19 and has 8 children. The men traditionally practice a pious existence geared only to study. Spending nearly the entire day learning Torah (Jewish law) leaves no time for paid employment or service in the military. As the population of this sector increases, the support of these families has become quite a challenge for the employed, tax paying Israelis.
Arabs have on average three children and for security reasons are also exempt from military service. This is an additional burden on the families
of those whose children are expected to serve.
The Ottomans controlled the Holy Land for hundreds of years.
When they decided to leave they essentially sold real estate
on a first come first served basis which explains why different denominations
now “have custody,” as they say, over certain sacred spots.
The walk of shame involves getting lost from the group and having to reenter with all eyes on you. Dan did the walk of shame yesterday and Alan followed suit today.
One thought on “Jerusalem (October 28, 2019)”
Aside from Dan’s walk of shame, it sounds like a day filled with very moving sights and experiences. So much to take in!