I went to this most holy site to Judaism, and my petition joined hundreds of others filling the crevasses between each sacred rock.
The Western Wall is sacred to Jews because it is the only part left from the second temple, which was destroyed in 70 AD. The Western Wall was part of the retaining wall of the temple platform and it was the wall closest to the Holy of Holies. Inside the Holy of Holies, was the Ark of the Covenant. The Western Wall is where Jews come to pray, read scriptures, and praise God.
All 80 of us students and a couple professors walked there to welcome in the Shabbat with the Jewish community. There are many regulations and customs at the Western Wall since it is so sacred. One that we heard and one that was on a sign was that women had to have their heads covered. Men had to have on kippas. Smoking was also not allowed and cameras weren’t either (at least on Shabbat, so that picture above isn’t mine. Compliments to wikipedia.) We also weren’t supposed to write petitions there; they were supposed to be written before, but I forgot and just had a blank little piece of paper. Nonetheless, my little grubby piece of paper fit its way into a little crack.
My petition was a petition of gratitude. Before we went to the wall, one of our professors was telling us a story about how the one priest who cleans the papers at the Wall or something, gets to read them. He said they were all asking God for something, and rarely were there ones of gratitude and ones thanking God for the many ways he blesses our lives. Therefore, I decided to make my petition solely one of gratitude. Even though I forgot to write on it, I held it in my little hands and filled it full of gratitude and good thoughts. It was so good. I loved the Wall. It was really just so good.
After standing in front of the Wall for a while, and marveling that I am actually here in Jerusalem experiencing the most holy places to so many people, I walked away from the wall backwards, not turning my back on it. That’s what you’re supposed to do and that’s what all the Jews were doing.
But funny story… one thing that we heard we were supposed to do, but we actually didn’t have to do, was cover our heads. So all of us students had our heads covered with our beautiful, new, colorful pashminas. All of us women had scarves all over our heads. Did anyone else? Did the Jewish women? NOPE. So we just looked like crazy weirdos and that what everyone thought we were. Also, everyone else was more dressed up and we show up in jeans and with our heads covered. We were trying to not stand out; it didn’t work… at all. They thought we were Muslim women at first, then they thought we were married women, but we were neither. We were just very misinformed Mormon girls.
There was also a lot of singing and dancing that went along. A lot of us students were dancing it up with the Jewish women and singing singing singing. It was sooooo fun. We were singing these fun Hebrew songs, just trying to make similar sounds. And this lady was in the middle of our circle, trying to teach us, and she had a lisp, and a cool hat, and she seemed like an amazing woman. I liked her. But she was teaching us these songs and it was fabulous. Sometimes I wish we had people would bust out into song and dance during Sacrament meeting. :) Ok, not Sacrament Meeting, but we could use some more lively people in Sunday School quite often.
My welcoming in of Shabbat at the Western Wall was fabulous. It was a really good experience. I need to go back on a non Sabbath day so I can take some sweet pictures. The Wall is amazing. I love being here.