Photo. Orthodox Jews praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Israel.
The feeling of wandering through different worlds than anywhere was in Jerusalem. Jerusalem it`s a religious hub. It`s the place where religions and cultures collide. Today, the status of Jerusalem remains is one of the core issues in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. This mix in Jerusalem is quite confusing, but at same time very fascinating. For each step I took, and every corned I turned, it was a new adventure.
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Entering the Damascus Gate into the narrow dark alleys in the Old City made me quickly forget about the world outside. The architecturally impressive Old City's Damascus Gate leads to the bustling Arab bazaar and the Muslim Quarter, and further to the Western Wall.
Inside the Old City, I found my way through the maze of narrow streets and alleyways, filled with gift shops, coffee houses and restaurants. Here there are four quarters: Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Armenian. And with the world three biggest religions. It makes it little bit tensioned. When I approached the Western Wall, I had to pass through a security barrier, which was manned by armed Israeli Border Police. Around the Western Wall site there were full of soldiers.
On this day it was Shabbat, the Jewish weekend which goes from Friday sundown until Saturday sundown. I could immodestly feel the spiritual atmosphere here with people dressed in traditional clothes, singing joyfully, dancing in a circle and praying intensively.
Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world and it used to play a big part in the world’s history. As mentioned, the city is the heart of three biggest religion in the world. In the small area of the Old City you can find the most important worship places of Christianity (Church of the Holy Sepulchre), Judaism (Western Wall) and Islam (Dome of the Rock).
People from everywhere showed up in the front of the Western Wall, or “Wailing Wall”, which is one of the most religious site in the world for the Jewish people. Here I observed men in long black coats with huge black hats and long curls on each side of the head. They were standing against the Western Wall rocking their head.
Metallica or AC/DC-fans? Heavy metal rockers? In one way it gave me association with a heavy metal concert where the audience were dressed in black and headbanging, but in this case the men were shuckle while praying and studying the Torah. These are religious Jews. Jews are supposed to pray three times a day; morning, afternoon, and evening.
As I observed, they were very concentrated - totally unoticed of all people and noise around them. They sway back and forth their head while praying. This very old custom is called shuckling in Yiddish and means to rock, shake, or swing. The rhythmic movement is way to concentrate on praying and learning, and at the same time avoid distracting thoughts. But do the listen? I started to wonder: what do they really get out of this? Prayer builds the relationship between God and human beings. I heard that if you pray at the wall 40 days straight, your prayer will be answered. But where is God? Why it`s so important to go to the Western Wall to connect to God if God is everywhere?
Millions of people a year visit the Western Wall. Many leave a written note on pieces of paper in the cracks between the blocks in the wall. With eyes closed, they whisper their wishes and kiss the wall when they have finished praying. The notes are a way to pray if you don't know how to do it, or do not wish to take part in the prayers.
Stein Morten Lund, 18th July 2019
The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, in the Old City of Jerusalem. As it is seen today, the Western Wall measures about 160 feet (50 metres) long and about 60 feet (20 metres) high; the wall, however, extends much deeper into the earth.