Sunday, July 10, 2016

Israel 2016 - Jerusalem Day 1, part 2

Israel, as the ancient homeland for Jews, has holy sites throughout the land. Jerusalem was established as the capital of the Jewish nation by King David, and his son, Solomon, built the first Temple on Mount Moriah to house the Tabernacle built by the Israelites in the Sinai Desert after the Exodus from Egypt. Centuries later the Temple site was expanded and a retaining wall was built on the western side of the complex. That wall, the Western Wall - or Kotel, is now the holiest site in the holiest city (the Capital) of Jerusalem in Israel, the ancient and modern homeland of the Jews.

Visiting the Old City, and the Kotel in particular, my first day in Jerusalem was first on my list of things to do. The Torah is read regularly three times a week - on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. My first day in Jerusalem was a Monday, so when I arrived at the Kotel there were a number of bar mitzvah ceremonies happening. Thursday is the really big day for bar mitzvah ceremonies, so I planned to go back for that. But being there on Monday gave me the chance to do a practice run. 

The area of the Jewish Quarter surrounding the Hurva Synagogue is filled with beggars seeking alms:



The Lubavitch Chabad stand is a regular visiting place for soldiers and others to put on tefillin and a tallit.




Jews from all backgrounds come to the Kotel to perform their bar mitzvah ritual:




There's a bit of controversy these days about women being allowed into the main prayer plaza in front of the Kotel. Traditionally there is a mechitzah (separating wall) that provides a separate prayer space for women. They line up to watch their sons perform the ritual.