by Susan Diamond
I wake in darkness. Not yet dawn. Before I open my eyes I stretch, so grateful to be alive another day in Jerusalem. I sit up in my hotel bed. I swing around and my feet hit the floor. I stand up, put my robe on and walk to the bathroom.
When I come out it is light. Day dawning. Get dressed and remember to grab my scarf. I am going to the Kotel, the Western Wall with precious cargo. A Godly mission. I’m walking on sacred ground. Every stone, every crumb of dirt is Biblical.
There’s prayer everywhere in Jerusalem. In a modern shopping mall a random glance to my left finds a group of men in workday clothes praying to an eastern wall leading to an elevator labeled “Parking Garage”.
I walk further on climbing steps and crossing over a road leading to Jaffa Gate, entryway to the Old City. I find a vendor squeezing fresh pomegranates. It’s season – October through November. He tells me he’ll go through 20 tons of the fruit in the two months. I give him my shekels and he gives me a plastic cup of the red liquid gold garnished with a generous sprig of fresh mint. I’m sipping a prayer.
A priest, a monk, and a rabbi walk into a bar…not a joke, and they aren’t drinking buddies. They’re sharing a walkway through an ancient marketplace in full costume from a much earlier age. The rabbi is mumbling prayers under his breath – he’s not one to waste a minute without Torah.
I arrive at the Kotel landing and walk past a group of 18, maybe 20, security personnel. Men and women, in uniform, each with their gun over one shoulder. They’re here to help God protect me, I have no fear.
I walk down the steps to where the action is. What remains of the Temple is standing proud before me. There’s a crude curtain separating the men from the women. I put my scarf over my head and walk over to the women’s section. I find my spot to the right. I have my prayer book on my ipad and it serves me well. I begin to pray.
Calmly at first, sucking it all in. Trying to see the sky, but when I look up, all I see is Jerusalem stone. I’m that close. Midway through my morning prayers I get a new neighbor. She is sobbing furiously. She’s praying out loud with tears and she’s pumping her fist. She is begging God for something, and I try not to listen.
I finish my daily devotions, add some personal prayers at the end (which is my custom) and it’s time. Time for a few dozen small slips of paper with your prayers, to be prayed for. The prayers came with me from Chicago in a zip-loc bag. I reach for the first one. It’s like I’m choosing a lucky winner for a raffle prize, but in this raffle, everyone wins.
Now it’s my turn to sob as I read the first prayer. I recall the person who shared it with me, and I pray. Then, just as I finish, the heavens open up and God cries. Great big rain drop tears of holy water. I decide not to rush. I slowly and oh so carefully fold the prayer and search for its perfect crack. The place this prayer was meant to wait for fulfillment. One done.
I don’t know how long I am there, but I do know the sobbing woman left long ago and my baggie is empty. I kiss the Wall. I back away taking my sweet time, somehow it doesn’t feel right to turn my back to the Wall just yet.
I bump into a tourist, say excuse me, turn around and head for home.