Over the centuries many walls have been built, torn down, rebuilt, torn down…ad infinitum.
Some things can’t be rebuilt.
One of those things is the Temple. When we read the Old Testament, we hear that David will not get to build the Temple but that his son, Solomon, will (2 Samuel 7:1-17) and does (1 Kings 6). Later, it was destroyed by the Babylonians (Jeremiah 52), mourned (Psalm 137), and rebuilt (2 Chronicles 36:22-23). It is the second Temple that Jesus would have gone to in his lifetime. It too was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE Today, in its place is the Islamic Dome of the Rock.
Next door is the Al-Aqsa Mosque. It is used throughout the day for prayer. On the board, the only time listed that is not used for prayer is sunrise (today it was 6:37AM). Most days, the Al-Aqsa is the main building for prayer, with the women in a side area. On busy days, the men pray in Al Aqsa and the women in the Dome.
It was not lost on me, though, that the view from the eastern windows were of the Ascension Church. Additionally, I was truly thankful to be allowed to walk on this plaza knowing HOW MANY generations of people, especially those in the Bible, who have been on this Temple Mount!
The rock (at the bottom of this image) has been around a LONG, LONG time! People have fought over this rock for a LONG, LONG time. And, as much as we’d like all fighting to end, that is not likely to happen anytime soon.
It is truly beautiful. It brings joy to many and causes pain for others. Orthodox Jews believe a third temple will be built there. Christians, however, believe that, before the Temple was physically destroyed by the Romans, Jesus destroyed it spiritually via his death and resurrection.
One of the walls that surrounds the Haram esh Shaif (aka the “Noble Sanctuary” or Temple Mount) to the west of Dome of the Rock, is the Western Wall (aka the Wailing Wall). When the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans, it was Hadrian who orginally allowed the Jewish people to come and pray at the wall but only on the August 9th anniversary of its destruction. Eventually, they were allowed more often than that. Today, I believe, anyone can pray there…as long as you go to your designated area.
One area for the men…
…and one for the women.
I’m not sure if it was just because the women’s area was slightly smaller than the mens area, but it sure felt like there were more women praying than men.
There were also women who stood on chairs next to the wall that divides the two areas tossing candy into the mens area. Turns out that Mondays and Thursdays are days set aside for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs to take place. The candy is tossed to symbolize the sweetness that the women pray come into the young person’s life. Today being Thursday, the plaza leading to the Wall was full of music and dancing as one family after another headed up the hill to their place near the Wall, releasing bouquets of blue and white balloons during the procession.
For those wondering why they come to the wall in the first place, its because they believe this point is the closest point to where the Holy of Holies (HofH) of the Old Temple was. They also believe that when the Temple was destroyed that, because of its proximity to the HofH, God went into this wall when there was no HofH to reside in. Personally, I don’t think God lives in a wall. I do think people often try to place God in a neat little box of their choosing. But, in the end, I believe that God resides in each of us. And, there are those who also believe that God has already rebuilt the Temple in each of us. Around here, they call people “living stones”….living stones that make a temple (1 Peter 2:4-10).
This wall continues for a long way to the right. The image above is a model rendering of the Temple’s full western wall (and part of the southern wall). In recent years, they have excavated it to the first century street leading up the Mount. They KNOW its from the first century because the street shows the indentations from where the upper stones of the Temple were pushed over to the street below.
Jesus walked up to the Temple MANY times! Today, I got to walk where he and the disciples and many believers before me would surely have walked! This city still has walls which separate streets that others may not walk. Thankfully, we do not need to go to a wall to be closer to God so that we may be heard. God is with each us. And, as with any good friend, sometimes the best talks happen while walking together.