Yesterday, David and I woke up before the sun to catch a bus to Jerusalem to see the priestly blessing at the Western Wall. We took the bus from Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station (more on this ridiculousness later) to Jerusalem where we rode the light rail down to the old city. When we stepped out of the light rail, we were surrounded by orthodox families flocking to the Western Wall for the blessing.
The priestly blessing is actually said every day in Orthodox synagogues, but the prayer is only said twice per year at the Western Wall, the last remains of a supporting wall of the Second Temple complex, destroyed by Romans in 70 AD. Jews consider the Wester Wall one of the holiest sites because of its connection with the second temple, so I it’s a special treat to receive the blessing there. According to this article from the Times of Israel, between 50,000 and 75,000 pilgrims came to the Western Wall yesterday to receive the blessing.
David and I were there to watch, not to be blessed. We walked with the pilgrims, though, towards the wall. When we got there, we hung back by the barricades. Even though it was 75 degrees out, I had to put on my wool sweater to cover my shoulders 😦 At least I didn’t get sunburned. We were hanging out by barricade when a police officer heard us speaking English. We introduced ourselves and it turned out that Yitz, short for Yitzhak (Isaac), knew Jackie Hedeman (a family friend from Mendham who lived here for two years– It’s a small country after all!) A crazy coincidence.
Watching the pilgrims gather at the Wall, I realized that, despite considering myself a Jew, I don’t fully understand or appreciate the range of traditions and heritages that also consider themselves Jewish. Most of the orthodox Jews wore black suits with some variation that denotes their heritage: the orthodox Jews from Russia wore round fur hats called shtreimel (seriously, they are something to behold) and some of them wore black silk robes instead of the traditional black suit. Orthodox Jews tend to live in small, insular communities, and the subtle variation in dress indicates which community they belong to. There were also a great number of Ethiopian Jews wearing beautiful white gauze robes.
After the blessing, we went to the nearby City of David museum, where you can see the recently unearthed remains of the original city of Jerusalem, believed to be the version ruled by King David of the bible. I took a ton of pictures, so I’ll let them do the talking (disclaimer: they uploaded in a random order for some reason, I’ll try my best to put them back in order..):
Ok, so these are actually from Sunday. I just really liked them.
Out of respect, I didn’t take any photos while we were standing closer to the wall, but here’s a view of the crowds at the wall from an overlook in the Old City.
Gorgeous purple flowers at the Western Wall.
David consults the map inside the City of David museum. It’s mostly an outdoor museum showcasing the ruins of the old City of David.
Some cool excavations of David’s city of Jerusalem.
View of the Mount of Olives from the Old City. This is where many believe that Jesus ascended to heaven.
The excavation of the “Large Stone Structure” (as the museum refers to it). They said it may have been King David’s palace!
Inside the underground passage leading to the Gidron Spring, Jerusalem’s one and only water source. In ancient times, the defensibility of the spring was so important that the Canaanites built an impressive underground tunnel leading to the spring (located in the Kidron Valley just outside the walls of the city) so that residents would be able to access water even when the city came under siege.
A knotty old olive tree hehehe…
They found this plaque in their excavations. The plaque was a consecration of a synagogue founded by a Greek family.
This is what most of the “museum” looked like.
Enjoying the shade…
Dinner! Shakshuka (spicy tomato stew with poached eggs on top), salad, orange juice. . .
It was an amazing treat to spend the day in Jerusalem with David. He spent 5 months there studying abroad, and he knew so much about the long and twisty history of the place. Can’t wait to head back there for a couple of days towards the end of the month!
I’m not sure if I captured it, but the City of David museum was awesome, and exhausting. The city was purposefully built on a hill, which made for SO MANY stairs in the hot sun. We were both so exhausted when we finally got back to Tel Aviv! So…today, we’re taking it easy.