by: Charleeda Sprinkle, Assistant Editor
How blessed I felt to be able to recite this along with Psalm 24 in the city of Jerusalem within its very gates! My pilgrimage taught me a greater appreciation of the Jewish people’s most sacred place. The Western Wall is actually an open-air synagogue and the closest place of prayer to the biblical Temple sites a person can get. One can even stand opposite what is believed to be the location of the Holy of Holies inside an underground tunnel along the northern portion of the Temple Mount’s retaining wall.
Jewish people refer to the Western Wall as the Kotel, meaning “wall.” Others call it the Wailing Wall. The name didn’t become popular until the 19th century but no doubt was named that because of Jewish people mourning over the destruction of the two Temples at this location for centuries.
On the Sabbath, I love watching shawl-draped men lift up an open scroll or hearing a shofar (ram’s horn) blown or listening to a chorus of men’s voices singing their prayers. Traffic in and out of the plaza is continuous, with Jews and Gentiles alike flocking to it: young and old, rich and poor, the maim and simple-minded, the religious and tourists—some looking quite overwhelmed. Most come with a prayer on paper to cram into a small crack in the Wall. (I even saw a handful taped to the Wall with wide, white medical tape!) The overall impression I get from the people and the prayers—both written and spoken, sometimes evoked with wracking sobs—is the massiveness of the need brought to this place called the “center of the earth” (Ezek. 38:12, RSV). Yet, God is able to hear and answer them all.
We can pray anywhere, but this place is God’s especially chosen place. David tells us, “For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place” (Ps. 132:13). In the next verse, he quotes God (probably from a conversation he and God had that Scripture doesn’t tell us about): “This is My resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it” (v. 14). “Forever,” my friends, is forever, which means it remains His “resting place” today.
Here was where Abraham bound Isaac to an altar. Jewish tradition says this is the site of the Garden of Eden, as well as the “gate of heaven” where Jacob dreamed of angels ascending and descending from heaven (Gen. 28:17). They believe all prayers everywhere in the world ascend to heaven from this “gate.” This is where “the glory of the LORD filled the temple” (2 Chron. 7:1-3). I praise the Lord that King Solomon remembered the foreigners in his prayer of dedication for the First Temple (6:32–33).Thank God He included us in His “house of prayer for all nations”(Isa. 56:7) and that the Jewish people don’t exclude us.
This is no ordinary place. This is not just another stop on a tour’s agenda. It’s special simply because God chose it. If the Lord grants you the privilege to pray here one day, remember…there are no long-distance fees from Jerusalem!
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