Friday at the Wall

Last Friday I went to the Kotel, the Western Wall, in the Old City of Jerusalem. There is nothing like standing under those stones, feeling the touch of history, thinking about all those generations, about the hands that build it. Being in the shadow of the wall, hearing the prayers whispered all around you, you are at the very center of the Jewish universe, the place where everything began.

And then, shouting.

Just above the Wall, on the Temple Mount, the weekly Muslim prayer was turning into a riot. Stones flew down to the plaza of the Wall, on the heads of some Nigerian tourists that just happened to be there. A thousand voices screamed praises to God, as they threw Molotov cocktails and rocks on His behalf. Suddenly Israeli police rushed the wooden deck, leading to the Temple Mount, and in a few seconds a series of explosions shook the city, echoing from the rooftops, scarring the pigeons up to the cloudy skies. “Stun grenades,” I thought. People were getting wounded on both sides.

The Wall on a morepeaceful day

The Wall on a morepeaceful day

Then I looked around. Some of the Jewish worshipers never moved from the Wall, not even raising their eyes to the sounds of the clashes over their heads. Behind me stood a Franciscan monk in his brown robes, holding a Polish flag. The Nigerians slowly moved back to the Kotel and two elderly Arab men, wearing their keffiyehs, passed through the square on their way to the Muslim Quarter. It was the most peaceful image, while fighting took place just few seconds away.

And it was the Middle East, a place where peace and war sometimes work differently than they do in the West. It was my home and my reality, one that is often hard to imagine, hard to understand, unless you come here and you stand for a while in Jerusalem, on a Friday, next to the Western Wall.

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