Yesterday, I got to play tour guide to a 42 year old Jewish woman who had never been to Israel before. We met at the central bus station and walked down Yaffo Street. We stopped at the Ben Yehudah shuk, walked through the Ben Yehudah mall (Midrachov) and detoured about 45 minutes for a doctor's appointment I had. I think the lure of air conditioning closed the deal for her.
Then we continued down Yaffo Street.
The first time I had ever been to the Kotel (Western Wall), was the summer of '86. I was visiting my aunt and uncle and cousins. Sad to say, I don't remember it. I don't remember what kind of impact seeing the holy site for the first time illicited in me. If we walked through the Old City or not...
I do know that when I go to the Kotel, I prefer to walk in from the center of town. It puts things into perspective... of the massive history or the place. Of what it means to millions of people. That by the simple act of walking to the Kotel, I am following in the footsteps of my ancestors.
We walked through Jaffa Gate, up around the Tower of David and through the outskirts of the Armenian Quarter to the Jewish Quarter. We passed the Hurva Synagogue, which is being restored and headed down the steps to the Kotel itself.
We paused at the top of the steps to take in the site. The South Wall excavations, the site of the Western Wall, with the mosques rising in the background, the people heading to pray. And then we went down to join them.
Whenever I go to the Kotel, my first order of business is to thank God for keeping my family safe. Yes, I realize one does not need to be at the Kotel in order to do this, and I realize that I thank God rather often during the regular week, while at home. But there is something about the Kotel that... I don't know. Maybe it's the fact that there are other people there praying and crying. And I don't feel strange joining them. I said a prayer for the two kidnapped boys, and I asked God to give me strength. Then I sat and people-watched as my friend said her own prayers and experienced the Kotel for the very first time.
I was honored that my friend (who until 2 p.m. that very day I had never actually met) allowed me to share her first experience at the Kotel. And I won't insult or embarrass her by saying anything about her own experience. That is for her to tell.