Had we stopped to pray, the nice Border Policemen would have immediately been alerted to kindly drag us out. So, instead, we strolled in the safe periphery around the great plaza, where it was undoubtedly certain that neither Arc nor Vail had ever stood, nor Altar nor Table, Candlestick, Shewbread, Washbasin or Pillar of Incense. We appeared to be conversing, but in fact we whispered psalms which most religious Jews know by heart.
One thing have I asked of God which I will seek: that I may dwell in the house of God all the days of my life, to behold the sweetness of God and to be in His temple.
Jews recite Psalm 27 from the beginning of the month of Elul until the end of Sukkot, and the two of us almost burst into tears when we heard these moving verses. The Waqf guard who was following us was listening too, trying to figure out if we were engaged in mundane chatter or daring to communicate with our Father in Heaven.
Having descended, after nearly an hour of strolling at the feet of our heavenly father, in the white light and mischievous breeze, I didn’t want to disappoint Adir by telling him that nothing had changed inside me, and that I was still the same aging Jew I had been before.
But then I caught a glimpse of the Wailing Wall to my right, with the swarming crowd of my brothers and sisters down below, in the outer part of God’s backyard, with Herodian and Ottoman stones towering over the parking lot-shaped plaza and crazed swallows chasing after clouds of mosquitoes, and it all made sense. I understood why they were packed like rats down there, while the Waqf were flaunting with light sandals and blue robes their ownership of the real thing up at the top. It was our primeval fear of making mistakes, of stepping on something, spoiling, insulting, inciting…
Standing up there, my back to the Temple Mount gate, I wanted to shout to my brothers and sisters down below, among the overgrown weeds in God’s neglected backyard: Yo, you down there, come on up here, there’s plenty of room for everyone!
Since then, I have completely changed and my life is not as it used to be, especially when I think of the Western Wall, not with yearning any longer, but with shame and humiliation. Just like Adir Zik had warned me.
May his soul rest in peace, and may we merit to see each other again in a redeemed world.
An early version of this piece was originally published at Hopeways.org