AN OLD WOMAN’S WARMTH
Posted 3 March 2006on:
Once you have lived a moment at the Wall, you never go away.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
I would like to post a story related by Golda Meir. She was Israel’s Foreign Minister 1956-1966 and Israel’s third Prime Minister 1969-1974
“One evening… I went to the Western Wall. I had grown up in a Jewish home, a good traditional Jewish home, but I wasn’t at all pious, and the truth is that I went to the Wall without much emotion, just as something that I knew I ought to do. Then, all of a sudden, at the end of those narrow, winding alleys in the Old City, I saw it. The Wall itself looked much smaller than it does today, after all the excavations. But, for the first time I saw the Jews, men and women praying and weeping before it and putting kvitlach, their scribbled petitions to the Almighty, into its crannies. So this was what was left of a past glory, I thought… all that has remained of Solomon’s Temple. And in those orthodox Jews with their notes, I saw a nation’s refusal to accept that only these stones were left to it and an expression of confidence in what was to come in the future. I left the Wall changed in feeling, uplifted is perhaps the word.
In 1971 I was awarded the Freedom of Jerusalem – probably the greatest tribute ever paid to me – and at that ceremony I told of yet another memorable visit I had made to the Wall, this time in 1967, after the Six Day War. For 19 years from 1948 – 1967 we were banned from going to the Old City or praying at our most holy site, the Wall. On the third day of that war, 7th June 1967, Israel was electrified by the news that our soldiers had liberated the Old City and that it was open to us again. I had to fly to the United States three days later, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave Israel without going to the Wall again. That Friday morning….. I received permission to go to the Wall, despite the fact that I wasn’t in the government then, but just an ordinary citizen like any other.
I went to the Wall together with some soldiers. There in front of it stood a plain wooden table with sub-machine guns on it. Uniformed paratroopers wrapped in prayer shawls clung so tightly to the Wall that it seemed impossible to separate them from it. They and the Wall were one. Only a few hours earlier, they had fought furiously for the liberation of Jerusalem and had seen their comrades fall for its sake. Now, standing before the Wall, they wrapped themselves in prayer shawls and wept, and I, too, took a sheet of paper, wrote the word “shalom” (peace) on it and pushed it into a cranny of the Wall as I had seen others do so long ago. As I stood there one of the soldiers (I doubt that he knew who I was) suddenly put his arms around me, laid his head on my shoulder, and we cried together. I suppose he needed the release and the comfort of an old woman’s warmth, and for me it was one of the most moving moments of my life.”
On every trip I take to Israel, I try to visit the Wall. Of course because of that little fella above, these trips are more and more frequent. I try to imagine how it would have been to walk those winding alley ways in the days of the Temple. I like to recite a few psalms and to place kvitlach, a request, a petition to the Almighty in the cracks. I placed a special note there in January and I look forward to having the chance to do so again very very soon.
With all my love and best wishes to you all for a wonderful weekend and Shabbat Shalom.