My partner Jon and I just returned from a trip to Jerusalem. We had a super-busy itinerary, as the first objective was to find an apartment as I begin study at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion's Year in Israel Program in June. Fortunately, we got that squared away on the first full day in Jerusalem, leaving us a few days to explore the city. We spent a lot of time in the Old City. If you have never been there, it is difficult to fully describe the immersive environment. We were completely surrounded by buildings as we wandered the narrow streets. There were plenty of tourists, from just about every corner of the world, but this is also working neighborhood of Jerusalem. In between shops selling Judaica, Christian religious objects, and general souvenirs, were butchers, hardware shops, and clothing merchants. While my partner and I tended to wander, we saw plenty of people walking at a surprisingly quick pace, seeming to glide over the smooth stone with frequent steps, as if they were on skates.
While we were amazed by the many sites, sounds, tastes and smells of the Old City, we were especially drawn to the Kotel, or the Western Wall. It has also been called the Wailing Wall. A short summary of the site: the Kotel is the closest remaining retaining wall to the Second Temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE and was never rebuilt. The Temple was the center of Jewish religious practice and its destruction forever changed the practice of Judaism. Today the Kotel is a place where people come to pray, because tradition says this site is closest to the holiest point in the Temple.
Jon and I visited on four occasions during our time in Jerusalem. There is a lot of religious complexity to this place, most significantly that women are not treated with the respect and equality that every soul in Creation is entitled to because they are forced to pray separately from men, and they have also been prohibited from chanting from the Torah. Nevertheless, it is also a beautiful place with praying, and singing and the amazing diversity of Jews and everyone else from every corner of the world. Jon took some beautiful photos, some of which I am sharing here.
We'll back soon.
Image: Montreal Botanical Garden
Is a rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem. He recently left his day job as a therapist, counselor, and consultant to follow his surprising dream of becoming a rabbi, and will be writing about his experiences during his year in Israel.