We joined with hundreds entering through the security check to the most sacred site in Judaism, the Western Wall Plaza. It is high on the list for Christians and Moslems too.
I thought of Abraham who journeyed from Beersheva to offer his son Isaac at this location, known as Mt Moriah. It is significant the Lord provided a substitute sacrifice then and would provide His own sacrificial Lamb later.
“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “in Isaac your descendents shall be called. He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.” (Heb 11: 17-19)
We joined with observant Jews, camera-happy tourists and dedicated pilgrims. I wonder if King Solomon ever had the idea that his temple construction would ever see such a day? It is a section of the Second Temple that is the impressive Western Wall.
The Lord denied King David the building rights because he was a man of battles who had shed blood. (1 Chronicles 28: 3) That verse contrasts how often this location has been the scene of angry altercations and religious wars.
The Western Wall is often referred to by the Westerners as The Wailing Wall. The late Zola Levitt wrote, “Jews were not allowed to come to Jerusalem until the Byzantine period, when they could visit once a year on the anniversary of the destruction of the Temple and weep over the ruins of the Holy Temple. Because of this, the wall became known as the “Wailing Wall.”” (http://www.levitt.com/slideshow/s01p05.html)
From 1948 to 1967, the Jordanians ruled what many Jews call the Kotel. (‘Kotel’ in Hebrew means ‘wall’) Although an armistice agreement was signed in 1949, Jews were denied permission to visit. Israel pined earnestly for their most valued location.
The tragic treatment of the area, by the Jordanians was offensive and painful for the Jewish people. Throughout those nineteen years the Jordanians managed to turn Judaism’s holiest site into a slum.
“When the area was recaptured by Israel in 1967, graves were found open with the bones scattered. Parts of the cemetery were converted into parking lots, a filling station, and an asphalt road was built to cut through it. The Intercontinental Hotel was built at the top of the cemetery. Sadar Khalil, appointed by the Jordanian government as the official caretaker of the cemetery, built his home on the grounds using the stones robbed from graves.” (www.palestinefacts.org)
Quite appropriately, Israeli political leaders complained saying, “This abomination had not shocked the world, which was so steeped in materialism that there would soon be no room left for the very concept of holiness.” (http://faculty.biu.ac.il/~steing/conflict/oped/jerufact.htm) What an interesting thought?
When Israel won the Six-Day War in 1967 the emotion was raw and for most it was overwhelming. Every year Jerusalem Day recalls their exuberant joy and relief.
One of Israel’s most controversial heroes, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan declared, “The Wall was before us. I trembled. There it was as I had known it – immense, mighty, in all its splendor…over come I bowed my head in silence.”
However, it was Dayan who insisted the Temple Mount remain under Moslem control. He made his decision to keep the peace. Although Israel had ousted the Jordanians, the 35acre site is today, controlled by the Waqf, under the Supreme Muslem Council. His decision impacts the world to this day.
Immediately we entered the Plaza I saw the security was out in force. This was 1996 and riots had been recent. Muslims, inflamed by Hamas and Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat, in September, threw rocks and debris on Jews and visitors worshipping at the Western Wall. The exchange became lethal when Jewish soldiers were killed by mobs, which included police from the Palestinian Authority.
The Waqf closed admission for tourists after Arabs were killed and injured in the exchanges. It was closed in honour of their ‘martyrs’, they said.
During 1996 Bethlehem had been closed to Jews and Christians. We fortunately visited at a time when we could transfer from Jewish buses and complete our visit with Arab guide and transport.
In Nablus (biblical Shechem), Arabs tried to burn down the Jewish synagogue, fortunately it was unoccupied at the time.
Also in Hebron, the lives of 400 Jewish settlers was threatened because of riots. Hebron is where David was first crowned King of Israel. (http://www.palestinefacts.org/pf_1991to_now_kotel_tunnel_1996.php)
I was amazed at the positive and generous atmosphere that greeted us at the Wall. Jews were openly blessed to find Christians still visiting. Many in our tour group spoke with smiling and relaxed soldiers who were willing to pose for photographs and engage in conversation.