Old City / Jerusalem, Israel
Slightly hesitant I pass the guard who stands in the one corner of the entrance to the stairs, that lead down to the Western Wall. He is dressed in khaki green, heavy army boots with a machine gun thrown over his one shoulder. He wears sunglasses and a beret.
Streaks of sun kissed golden brown hair peaks out. I am staring at my shoes, as a vague hiss comes my way. I look up, to meet a pair of green glittering eyes and a smile. He is merely my age. A cute boy, with a gun! It feels weird. I look to my shoes again, and keep walking down the stairs.
In the open place in front of the Wailing Wall, groups of Hasidic men are submerged in evening prayer. There is a rope dividing me from them. I understand it as it is a division for men and women or Jews and tourists. Either way, it applies to me, so I approach the wall on my side of the rope. The prayers are loud and in different pace. Creating a sound wall of unsynchronized voices like a cacophonic coir. I feel overwhelmed by its forceful nature, none of it feels genuine to me.
I decide thought to do as I have planned and approach the wall and stick a prayer of my own in its cracks. As I get closer I hear the muffled sound of crying, and I see faces whispering inches from the stone wall. Heartfelt wishes delivered in that way that you only do when hope is lost. The emotions are intense.
I reach into my bag and pull up a note, its says: “ΑΓΑΠΗ και ΕΥΤΥΧΙΑ, για όλη την οικογένεια μου - και εμένα!” (Love and happiness to all of my
family – and me!) Before hand I have decided to write in greek, it being my original language. And somehow it feels more appropriate, as if the wall then could “read” it. I have made sure to add “and me” in the end of the note. Just to make certain that my grammar faults will not make the note to be misunderstood, and not include me (but not either being too selfish).
I fold it and awkwardly try to tuck it in, but the cracks are filled with notes and it demands some pushing and shoving. I feel afraid of that it will hide someone else’s note, or God forbid that a note will be pushed and fall to the ground. It takes me a while. Meanwhile, slowly, the general mood comes on to me, and my prayer note starts feeling immensely important. I start whispering to the wall my concerns of the prayers grammar, the trouble of squeezing the note in with respect to the other notes, and it feels like the wall nods. It really does. And there, a crack appears and my note slips in. I thank the wall, nod back, and start moving back, backwards, bowing, like the praying Jews.
When I remember that I haven’t taken a picture. So I approach the wall again pull up my camera and shoot off a few pictures. From a distance I hear a guard yell –“Nooo flash”. I haven’t used one, but I feel jumpy, there is too much superstition around.
On my way out I make sure to choose the same stairs as I came in. I feel more confident, I have done my business, I have gotten my shot, and I am off leaving this sacred but to me funny feeling place.
On top of the stairs the cute boy with a machine gun and sun kissed hair, is picking his teeth.
I stretch my back, look straight into his green eyes and smile flirtatiously, like only a twenty year old can get away with. Behind me, I hear his energy shift, knowing he can’t leave his post, but that he wants to. It brings a different smile to my face, the one that only a twenty year old needs - the confirmation of ones sex appeal.
Over a million prayer notes are placed each year in the cracks of the wall. It is forbidden according to Jewish law to throw them away. The notes are therefor, respectfully collected twice a year and buried on the nearby Mount of Olives.
Mine is the last large one far down on the right side.
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