Feb. 15, 2005
Jerusalem


I went to the Wailing Wall on Sunday. It's considered by Jews to be the most sacred spot in all of the Holy Land of Israel. It's an ancient marvel, a wall of stone several stories high. It originally surrounded the second oldest temple in Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, built in 517 B.C., and destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. Some of the stones near the bottom are said to be more than 12 meters long, weighing more than 100 tons.

The Wall sits in the midst of the Old City, a fascinating and beautiful section of historic buildings connected by winding stone pathways, staircases, and tunnels, all within more stone walls. They were rebuilt several times over the centuries because of war. People of all faiths and backgrounds live in the Old City. The maze-like corridors are packed with small shops selling everything you could imagine: baked goods and spices and packaged food, cheap toys, clothes, scarves, cosmetics, rugs, artifacts, jewelry, and all sorts of souvenirs.

There are numerous gates into the Old City, and countless routes you can take to reach the Wailing Wall, but like most tourist attractions and high-traffic areas in this country, you have to pass through security first. I went through the gate closest to the wall, and they actually had separate entrances for men and women (The Wall is like a synagogue, so it's divided in half by a wooden fence because Orthodox Jews don't believe men and women should pray together).

I emptied my pockets of metal, including coins, my hotel key, my digital camera, my watch, my Blackberry, and my Israeli cell phone, and I walked through the metal detector, which loudly beeped. I took off my belt and tried again. It beeped again. The guard patted me down and reprimanded me for not putting my wallet in the basket since it was filled with credit and other cards with metal strips. Then he let me go in.

There were dozens of people standing at the base, dressed in black from head-to-toe, rocking back and forth as they prayed. I found an empty spot and took a piece of paper from my wallet. Some visitors believe the Lord will grant wishes if they're written down and then wedged into the cracks in the stone. A guy I know named Dan went to the wall on a recent trip and wrote that he wanted the Colts to beat the Patriots in the playoffs, and stuck his request into an available slot. The fact the Colts lost doesn't necessarily mean other wishes aren't granted. I'm told the Lord deals with the most urgent and serious requests first. My wish was more personal, and I found a spot for it near eye level, took a few moments for reflection, then turned and walked away.

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[Ed. note: Click the video tab in the upper right to watch video of Leventhal's reports.]

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