The Wall of Tears and Happiness
by Jonathan Segal
The year 70 BCE, the most valuable place to the Jewish people was destroyed. The second temple and everything that came along with it was demolished, leaving the Jewish people without a religious center in the world. Although the temple was destroyed, the west wall of the complex remained standing and to this day this wall is remembered as the greatest physical evidence of prosperous Jewish life before the Common Era. Today, the Western Wall stands for many things and for many people. To some people the wall stands for history, loss, or victory while to others the wall stands for the Jewish religion, personal comfort, or even safety. Whatever it stands for, I believe that this wall is the most important physical wall in the world.
My first visit to the Western Wall was one of confusion. I was young and couldn’t quite understand why so many people had come so far to see a few boulders in the shape of a vertical wall. I did notice, however, that this odd pile of rocks seemed to have a special meaning for a large percentage of the people who got the privilege to witness its significance. Unfortunately, the rest of my first experience at this holy sight consisted of being scolded by elderly Chasidic Jews for wearing shorts and dressing immodestly in front of the wall.
After choosing to go to Israel for a semester of school, I knew that I would have many opportunities to visit this famous wall. At this point in my life, I was 17 and for some reason the significance of the wall seemed a lot more evident to me at this time than it had five years earlier. To me, visiting the wall for a second time provided me with an opportunity to share a connection with fellow Jews around the world. It also served as an outlet for many events that had built up to my journey to Israel. My friend Tucker and I approached the wall together, covering our heads with a yarmulke and with a prayer book in our hands. We pushed our way through the black coats and long beards and made our way to the base of the wall.
Standing in front of the wall with one of my best friends after having gone through so much the past year with him, we were both in awe at the effect the Western Wall had on us. We joined together in a prayer for people we know who have passed away, in which we both thought of our friend Mitch, and then slowly backed away from the wall, trying not to turn our backs. To us this wall had been a personal outlet for our feelings and a promise that the rest of our stay in Israel was going to be a fantastic experience.
The Western Wall is vital for many reasons besides personal connections. It is a peace of history and last standing proof of an ancient civilization. It is also a physical wall that separates the Temple Mount from the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. This helps with things as basic as security. However, security is not the main thing on peoples mind when they face this Wailing Wall. It is the history, the tradition, the thoughts, the prayers, and the notes that overflow the cracks.
Jonathan Segal is a NFTY EIE High School in Israel alum. This piece was written for an 11th grade English assignment following his return from Israel.
Originally posted at Youth and College Israel Programs: The Blog