The Wonderful Faces Of Jerusalem: Photographs From My Trip On Sunday


UPDATES 9 am Israel time Tuesday:

*Israel TV channels 2 and 10 are both reporting today that Mahmoud Abbas is now ready to return to the Israeli concessions (aka “negotiating) table though they are already reporting that his plan is to sit down with Israel for a week or two, and then walk out. 

The total farce that is Israel’s supposed “Palestinian negotiating partner” was amply demonstrated again yesterday when Rami Hamdallah, the newly unelected Prime Minister of the PLO/Palestinian Authority who resigned and then unresigned, resigned again. 

*Yesterday, unexploded Grad rockets were still being located in various locales in the south from the volleys fired out of Gaza late Sunday night and early Monday morning. On this blog yesterday, it was reported that 8 rockets had hit the south–in fact, there may well have been more.

The total indifference of the IDF to the attacks was never better illustrated than on the IDF spokesman’s Facebook page on Monday morning. That spokesman, Yoav Mordechai, had this to say: “Again, an emergency meeting at about midnight. After 40 days of quiet, without fire from Gaza into Israeli territory, rockets which probably fell in open areas, were fired tonight. A good and peaceful night for residents of the south.”

A good and peaceful night for residents of the south? Every man, woman, and child of the communities near the Gaza border spent the hours of 11 pm to 1 am running for their lives to their bomb shelters–and probably sleeping in them thereafter. 

Probably fell in open areas? Two rockets were shot down over Ashkelon before exploding in the city.

After 40 days of quiet? The most recent rockets before these volleys were fired occurred only 4 days before–on Wednesday night.  Keep checking the Palestinian missile column in the column to the right. 

The trouble is that we in southern Israel know exactly what is going on, but the IDF disinformation campaign does its best to keep the rest of Israel–and the world–uninformed.

TODAY’S BLOG

As regular readers of this blog know, your humble servant feels a special affinity for Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel. As reported yesterday, I spent Sunday morning walking through the Jewish Quarter and spending considerable time in front of the Kotel (the Western Wall). What follows are some of the pictures that I took:  

If you want to know what the Kotel means to Judaism . . .

If you want to know what the Kotel means to Judaism . . .

There are many things to note about the above picture: the apparent poverty of the orthodox man immersed in prayer as shown by his faded kipa (head covering) and torn coat*; the blackened, heavily weathered siddur (prayer book) that he is cradling in his hands; his position at the Wall at the one spot with the deepest crevice–closer perhaps than any other spot to where the Holy of Holies rested during the times of the First and Second Jewish temples.

If you want to know what the Kotel means to Judaism, you need to look no further than this picture. And if you want to know why orthodox Jews feel that they have a proprietary interest in the Kotel in the face of such groups as the Women Of The Wall, you need to look no further than this picture.

By the way, I took this photograph at about 10 am in the morning. When I walked past the Kotel at about 12:30 pm, this man still stood there in the same place, eyes fixed to the Kotel, gently swaying in prayer. This man’s life is Judaism and the Kotel.

A soldier in prayer . . .

A soldier in prayer . . .

Everyone comes to the Wall to put a small prayer on a piece of paper into the Wall. Soldiers like to do so before, during, and after their service. If you want to know one of the reasons why it is said that Israel has the most moral army in the world . . .

Three IDF friends . . .

Three IDF friends . . .

The Wall is not merely for prayer; there are celebrations going on all the time. Army buddies pose with each other; there are bar mitzvahs with singing and dancing . . . the Wall is full of life. 

Not just adults . . .

Not just adults . . .

Israeli children by the tens of thousands come to the Wall. Of course your humble servant, being male, was on the men’s side and snapped this photo of elementary school children coming to pray–and to take a trip down the tunnel beside the Wall (note the entrance into which they are headed).

Another party at the Wall . . .

Another party at the Wall . . .

I took this picture at the entrance to the Women’s Section. Note the crown that the orthodox boy is wearing. It symbolizes that he has just received his first siddur–and his class is having a party at the Wall.

The Kotel is not only for Jews. . .

The Kotel is not only for Jews. . .

Your humble servant snapped this picture of a group of Christian Kenyan pilgrims just after leaving the security checkpoint and starting up the stairs into the Jewish Quarter (they were obviously heading down to the Kotel). We thanked them for coming to Israel–and they thanked us for being Israelis.

A little further up the stairs . . .

A little further up the stairs . . .

All along this stairway are those in need asking for money. Note the bundled red strings on this woman’s lap–in return for the smallest donation into her cup, she will tie the red string on your wrist and bless you and your family. It was a hot morning, and I couldn’t help but notice the “arctic” (Hebrew slang for popsicle) in her left hand.

Further up the stairs (it's a long climb) . . .

Further up the stairs (it’s a long climb) . . .

Others along the way are not asking for money, but playing for shekels. This clarinetist asked me where I was from. When I told him that I live half of my life in Israel and half in the United States, he started playing “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Finally, at the top of the stairs . . .

Finally, at the top of the stairs . . .

And I leave you today with the infectious smile of a young Israeli child, at the top of the stairs where the two lions stand–the heraldic symbols of the unique and wonderful city of Jerusalem. 

*Addendum. Today is the 17th of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, a fast day for the Orthodox of the country. It was on this day in the year 70 CE that the Romans breached the Jerusalem city walls. Three weeks later on the 9th of Av, the Second Temple was destroyed and the Torah was burned.

I mention this because the orthodox man at the wall may have intentionally torn his coat in preparation for today’s fast and prayers.

 

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