Shabbat Shalom. Friday evening at the Western Wall. So many contrasts in this place. People come here praying for peace, and yet there is a soldier sitting with an automatic rifle just a few steps from where I sit. I could probably reach out and touch it. Scuffed boots, and olive green uniform. Young. Life here.
So many people here, and yet small. You can walk down the street and randomly see a person you recognize. The Orthodox mixed with the ethnic, yet somehow linked. The religious and the secular. Those coming to the “Kotel” to pray, and that large group of tourists in the obnoxious yellow hats. The faint sound of singing echoing from the souls of linked arms of worshipers up near the Wall. A language I don’t yet understand, but a tune that has been passed down for ages which they all seem to know.
So many different people in one place. My Ulpan class. The sweet lady I met who is from Korea, the guy from Portugal who moved here via several years in Paris, the three Muslim woman who sit in a row, the young Arab from California who was born in Kuwait, and whose mother isn’t very impressed with the thought of his American girlfriend, the Catholic priest from Poland who sits on my right, the young Spanish Jew making Aliyah who sits on my left, and the guy from New York with a perpetually unimpressed look on his face who has to be here “for work.”
Back at the Wall a Jewish man comes up and shakes the hand of the solder–thanking him for what he is doing for Israel. These people. This place. Am I starting to get attached? Should I? Is it worth it? Is it worth getting your heart involved just to say goodbye?
It’s been cloudy here in Jerusalem this past week. Maybe those clouds are just symbolic of what has been going on in this troubled land. It’s different when you live here. Do I get attached? Is it worth it if I will never really belong or truly understand? I can learn the language, I could even become a citizen, but I can never truly understand the connection Jewish people have to this land. But my heart can still get attached…I can still get upset when people mutter anti-Israeli mantras, when I hear about American comedians making disgusting remarks on public television, and when I hear about a demonstration at synagogue in France. Have people learned NOTHING from history?!
A group of guards walk past now, their rifles hanging casually by their sides. The singing is louder and more energetic now. Dancing and clapping. The ground forces moved into Gaza last night–today we hear of the first Israeli casualties. Families, little children hurrying home for Shabbat. Young men in black hats and white shirts rushing to get to the Wall. An Orthodox man with his grey beard and large fur hat walking home from the Wall with his young son for Shabbat meal. Teenage girls with their prayer books. Shabbat Shalom. Muslims anxiously awaiting the sound of the canon signifying the end of the fast day during Ramadan–they can go home and eat now.
What is this place? This land of contrasts. One minute I’m wondering around the streets of the Old City–“Miss, are you Muslim?” the guard asks me. “No,” I respond. “Sorry, this place is for Muslims only.” One minute I’m in the middle of a Middle Eastern market smelling spices and shwarma, and the next I’m walking through upscale Mamilla Mall and seeing advertisements for designer shoes and expensive handbags.
Faces. These people–I want to know them. I want to understand their traditions, and see into their lives, but I’m not quite sure how to go about doing it. I want to get attached, I want to love so much that it breaks my heart to say goodbye. I so badly want this to all be worth it. I just know that I can’t love in the right way on my own. The Father has shown me that time and time again–it’s only when my heart is firmly attached to His that I can ever truly have love worth giving. And so I walk back to my little apartment and I listen to music in Hebrew and make myself some tea…Shabbat Shalom. Pray for the people of Jerusalem.