Visiting Israel's Western Wall

The first time I was at the Wall, I was 16—I’ll never forget the experience. I traveled to Israel on a summer camp tour. We were teenagers away from our parents for six weeks, ready to party, hike, and learn. It was 1988, during the first entifada (Palestinian uprising). The threat of an attack is always present in Israel (then and now), but we didn’t feel unsafe. I remember a lot about that trip, but I can still feel my visit to the Wall.

As I approached, it was as if I was stepping into an electromagnetic field. The air was buzzing. The energy permeated my skin and heart. I felt alive and ancient at the same time. Standing where my forefathers and mothers stood thousands of years ago overwhelmed me. I was overcome with a physical and spiritual connection that remained strong after all these centuries. The fact that I could stand there, a free Jewish woman, defied all odds. After thousands of years of persecution, there I was—humbled and in awe.

That feeling never left me, and last week I was given the opportunity to share it with my children. My fiancée Marc and I took all of our children to Israel—eight of us in total. It was extraordinary. I could write many blogs about our experiences (and I will), but our moment at the Wall is what I’ll share today.

First, a little history. The Wall, Western Wall, Wailing Wall, Kotel—they’re all names for the same thing. According to the Hebrew BibleSolomon’s Temple was built in the 10th century BCE on a holy site called the Temple Mount. It was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The Second Temple was completed and dedicated in 516 BCE. Around 19 BCE, Herod the Great began a massive expansion project on the Temple Mount. Today’s Western Wall formed part of the retaining perimeter wall of this project. The Temple was destroyed by the Romans, along with the rest of Jerusalem, in 70 CE.

So, nearly three thousand years after the Romans tried to wipe out the Jews, here I was with my girls. We took part in the tradition of writing a note and putting it in the wall for God, along with a note from a friend of ours from Minnesota who had asked if we would leave it in the Wall. Then we prayed, together out loud then silently. The girls stood with me as I recounted my first experience at the Wall and how amazing it was to be with them this time. Once again, the emotion of the moment was overwhelming and beautiful. I took a moment to myself as the girls stepped away and felt the cool stones of the Kotel under my hand and the intense energy it emitted in my soul.

A physical connection to your past is a gift and a symbol of hope. Even this week, as a deal with a nuclear Iran looks imminent, the Kotel is a reminder that Israel has had many enemies in the past—but still, the Wall stands. The Babylonians are gone, the Romans have fallen, the Nazis are a horrible memory, and the people of the Kotel are still here.

This week, I wish you a connection to your past, hope for the future, and the knowledge that goodness and truth will stand strong. Hoping you had a happy Easter and Passover!