The annual holiday Yom Kippur begins this evening. It always reminds me of a surprising conversation I had in Jerusalem at the Western Wall. A Jewish woman approached me and engaged me in a talk.
She somehow knew my affiliation with a radio ministry and told me we needed to broadcast to the nations God’s way to be saved. I told her that was, in fact, our passion.
She smiled and shook her head no.
Then she shared with me a list of things all Gentiles need to do in order for God to accept them. I recognized some of the standards as being from the Ten Commandments, and I told her so. Again, she smiled and shook her head.
“Those commandments are for the Jews,” she said.
“Do you keep them?” I asked.
Question: What major site in Jerusalem can a visitor see after the sun goes down that still requires men to wear a hat? (Okay, so you could wear a yarmulke instead of a hat. Most men remove the hat anyway.)
Answer: The Western Wall Tunnel.
When you say the words “The Western Wall,” most folks think of the Western Wall plaza:
- It’s the place where bar- and bat-mitzvahs regularly occur and where soldiers are inducted.
- It’s the spot where ultra- and orthodox Jews come to pray—as well as many tourists—and the place of national prayer gatherings.
- It’s Judaism’s most sacred site.
But like the tip of an iceberg, the Western Wall plaza represents only a small part of the whole. There’s much more of the wall to see.
Most of the Western Wall lies buried beneath the rubble of time and hasn’t seen the light of day for centuries.
But a tunnel lets you see the entire length of the wall today.
I remember in the 2008 election when Barack Obama conducted his world tour as part of his presidential campaign, he visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
You may remember that he inserted a prayer in the wall. The Jews consider this a sacred act—even if the individual represents another faith.
(Photo: Paul J. Richards / AFP – Getty Images)
After Obama left the Western Wall Plaza, someone scrabbled out the prayer—written on King David Hotel stationary—and took a picture of it.
Here’s what Obama’s prayer said:
I’ve heard it said, “If you want to understand the history of Israel, then learn the history of Jerusalem.”
Many books depict the expansion and contraction of the walls of Jerusalem, but I thought a timeline might illustrate it well.