Ok so here is the first of several promised posts. I have described a little already that the Jews celebrate the beginning of Sabbath, Shabbat, every Friday evening at Sundown. We count our days from midnight to midnight, but the Jewish day is from sundown to sundown. To understand why we went to the Western Wall, I should give a brief background though. The Western Wall, formerly dubbed the "wailing wall", is the only part that remains from Herod the Great's Jewish Temple Complex--from Jesus' time. It is the western portion of the retaining wall that surrounded the entire temple complex. When the temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, they burned it, and then toppled the stones to the ground below. Today, it is the Jewish belief that the Islamic Holy site Dome of the Rock stands exactly where their temple once stood. Though permission to worship near/on the temple mount has altered many times for the Jews in the last 2000 years, today they are able to worship at the Western Wall. It is THE holiest site in Judaism, because it is as close to where their temple once stood as they can get.
SO, luckily non-Jews are still able to visit and observe! So you walk in through security and it opens up into this large plaza. We got there just in time to see all of the boys from Rabbinical school marching and chanting down the stairs to the wall. For them, welcoming in Shabbat is a joyous occasion. They do their thing all the way to where the men go into worship by the wall. Once they get in there, a lot of them continue to dance, sing, clap, and chant. It is almost expected for the men to be very boisterous during the evening. For the women, it is a different experience. If the women acted the same way, they would be seen as very promiscuous. On their side, the women quietly read and pray at the wall. After observing all of this for a few minutes, my roommates and I wrote some prayers on small pieces of paper and stuck them in the wall. (We actually broke the Sabbath, because you aren't supposed to write on the Sabbath... oops.) After they worship at the wall, the Jews back away from it, so as not to offend God by turning their back on Him.
The feeling there was one of reverence, and intense faith. I wished that I knew Hebrew so that I could worship with the women there, but instead I just silently prayed to myself. After we left the worship area, we went back out into the plaza to people watch. We met and talked with several people who were there for their own personal worship. It was so fascinating to talk with these people! We weren't able to take pictures, because that is considered to be breaking the Sabbath. But next time I go back to the Wall not on the Sabbath, I will definitely get some pictures! I love learning about these people and their faith. It helps me understand my own background and faith from a different perspective, which I really appreciate!