Holy Land – Western Wall

It was a wet, rainy day as we made our way to the Western Wall.  Don’t let anyone ever tell you that the Holy Land is only hot and dry!  Because of the weather, the crowds were light at this site that is very holy to the Jewish people.  The Western Wall is the only remaining portion of the walls that surrounded the Temple in Jerusalem.  Though the wall has been added to over the centuries, the base layers are the actual stones that Jesus would have seen and touched in his visits to the Temple.

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Pilgrims place written prayers in the spaces between the wall stones.

I have struggled somewhat with the shrine sites in the Holy Land, because many sites have been built up with great ornamentation and do not look anything like they did in the times of Jesus.  Our tour guide, Mike, made a good point concerning this: had the shrine churches not been built over these sites in the centuries following the resurrection of Jesus, then these sites might have been lost to history.  We would be kept guessing as to where they were located within the Holy Land.  And so, the shrine churches have preserved our holy history.

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An Orthodox Jewish man prays in the inner corridors of the wall.  The blur in the shawl area represents the continuous bowing and lifting of the head performed while praying.

And yet, something is lost when we replace the humble sites of the Bible with flashy coats of gold and silver.  I think particularly of the scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (certainly not a biblical source!), when Jones is trying to select the correct chalice that belonged to Jesus.  Others select the most ornate chalices and perish, but Jones selects a humble wooden chalice that would have more aptly fit a first century carpenter.  In this same way, the sites that have spoken to me the most profoundly are the sites that reflect the humble beauty of Scripture.

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A Jewish man kisses the wall as he prays outside.

The Western Wall is one of these sites.  It is a simple place of prayer that remains unadorned in its sand-colored limestone beauty.  It is a reminder that the presence of the Lord remains in the Holy Land, even if the Temple has never been restored.  Wars and hatred and conquering armies cannot prevent the presence of God from standing firm in this place, nor in any other place on earth.  No matter how much turmoil you face, the presence of God remains.  And you can firmly plant your life upon the One who dwelt in the Temple and appeared so mightily to the people of the Scriptures.

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A weed or a lesson?  Life springs forth from the wall.

We have a free day today (Wednesday), and my plan is to venture back out to the Western Wall and spend some time in prayer: to touch the stones Jesus touched and worship in the place Jesus worshiped.  There, as in all places, the love of God is ready to surround pilgrims.  Nothing can topple that promise.

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I touch the wall as this holy place has touched my soul.

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