Fighting my way to the Western Wall (JERUSALEM POST) By SHARON UDASIN 04/10/12)
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Getting to the Western Wall on the blisteringly sunny second day of
Hol Hamoed, the intermediate days of Passover, was no easy task.
All the way from the Safra Square light rail station, visitors
clogged the sidewalks of Jaffa Road – even blocking the doors of the
train itself – en route to the Old City’s Jaffa Gate, a veritable
testament to the art of weaving that rivaled the pedestrian chaos of
New York City’s Times Square.
The exodus continued through Jaffa Gate and down the winding streets
of the Old City, punctuated by a blaring musical performance at the
entrance and salesmen all along the route who were eager to sell
their wares to passersby in every language they could dredge up.
Jews and Christians of all colors and shapes from every corner of the
world – from those in shtreimels and tzitzit to those in miniskirts
and tank tops, from those in New York Knicks T-shirts to those in
Victorian- era wide-brimmed chapeaus – were making their way to the
city’s indisputably most popular point, the Western Wall, in Hebrew
All in all it took me about an hour-and-a-half to trek the mere 500
meters from Jaffa Gate to the Wall – albeit with a few wrong turns,
necessary to even a veteran visitor of the area – with foot traffic
coming to a complete and utter standstill at the intersection of
David and Muristan streets, the cross-section between the Christian
and Armenian quarters. Tour groups struggled to get by as mothers and
fathers clenched their children’s wrists, and a particularly astute
toddler decided to use one of the narrow stone ramps bridging the
rigid cobblestone as a slide.
Turning the corner at Chain Gate and Hakotel Street, I joined an
amalgamated mass – a line – next to the sign that simply
reads “Wall,” indicating the final descent into the Kotel complex.
Once through security, I emerged on top of the stairwell looking down
at an ocean of people, thousands upon thousands of visitors roaming
the bright landscape below and clamoring to the ancient remains of
the Temple’s retaining wall.
Several Magen David Adom emergency stations set up all around the
area dealt with the potential consequences of the sundrenched,
crowded, sweaty and densely populated venue, and also, apparently,
served as a meeting point for lost children, husbands and wives as
per the occasional loudspeaker announcement.
Families handed off cameras to one another, asking strangers to take
their portraits in front of the sacred space as infants howled in the
heat. An enormous sign at the entrance to the women’s side of the
wall read “no entrance for strollers,” but strollers rolled through
the gateway regardless, bumping freely among the rows of prayerful
women whose children twirled around next to them. Overhead, Western
Wall swifts flew low, swooping comfortably into their perches on the
Just in front of the women’s section, members of an Asian-Christian
wedding party posed in sparkling white gowns for a photograph,
clutching a dragon-like ornament and displaying a banner bearing the
golden embroidered letters “YAHSHUA” (Jesus).
Toward the end of my visit, as I was leaning against one of several
shady wood partitions in the center of the complex, a young woman and
her two little girls approached me, asking if I had a pen and paper.
Tearing a sheet out of my reporter’s notebook and handing over my
pen, I watched as the girls wrote what were probably their first
notes to tuck into the fractures among the Western Wall stones.
Shyly, one of the girls – about five years old – went to the other
side of the partition to write her message. “We won’t look,” her
mother told her, giggling.
When she was finished, the little girl handed me back the pen with a
Looking around, I saw hundreds of parents and their children,
religious and not, partaking in that same, generation-old tradition
and celebrating freedom on that sunny day together. And I realized
that no matter how we divide ourselves and how different we may be,
on that Hol Hamoed Passover afternoon at the Western Wall, everyone
had come to the same place in search of the same thing. (© 1995-2011,
The Jerusalem Post 04/10/12)
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