Echoes of the Shofar at Jerusalem’s Western Wall

When I was in Israel I made sure to visit the Western Wall, the last surviving remnant of the Jewish Temple from over 2,000 years ago. It was amazing to see so many Jews praying together from all over the world.

We take it for granted that Jews can pray anytime at the Western Wall, but for centuries Jewish access was restricted, sometimes we were even completely locked out.

I found this amazing video showing how young Jews during the British mandate, at great risk to themselves, smuggled in a Shofar to the Western Wall area and blew it at the end of the Yom Kippur services. Wow! – I’m just so inspired by their bravery and dedication!

Jerusalem is full of places that are holy for the Jewish People and the Islamic and Christian religions. I am proud that under Israeli sovereignty the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif in the Islamic tradition) is packed with Muslim worshipers during their Friday prayers, that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher welcomes Christian pilgrims from all over the world, and that we Jews at last have the right to pray without being barred by foreign powers.

For thousands of years, when Jews have gotten married, the grooms have smashed a glass to remember the destruction of the temple and our exile from Jerusalem.

Here’s Matisyahu, one of my favorite reggae artists, singing about what Jerusalem means to him. Enjoy!

  • CML

    Joe, I am really happy that you had a meaningful experience at the Western Wall. I am also really glad that under Israeli control Jews are finally able to pray there without being stopped by outside powers. I do wish however that Reform and Conservative Jews could pray there openly according to their tradition, and that women could wear Talit and read from the Torah if they so choose. Fortunately there are some groups like Women of the Wall and the Israel Religious Action Center that are doing some great work in this regard. I hope they succeed.

    • David Abitbol

      Uhm CML? Reform and Conservative Jews DO in fact pray freely according to their tradition at the Kotel and women can wear Talits and read from the Torah. The area designated for that over by Robinson’s Arch is just as holy as the touristy Kotel, and is by any standard, more pleasant and less crowded. This is how it’s been since the Israel Supreme Court in 2003 ordered the government to designate that area for non-traditional / Reform / Conservative-style worship. Now many groups are still unhappy, notably The Women of the Wall and some in the Reform movement. I urge them most sincerely to move to Israel, have lots of babies and vote for parties that support their position. And also to come and worship at the Kotel daily. Until that day, we’ll all have to live with the compromise hammered out by the Supreme Court.

  • olesker

    More than 30 years ago I approached the Kottlel for the first time. I held out my hand to its stones. I hesitated a moment before making contact. Unlike stone walls in the England I’d grown up in, this one exuded warmth, not coldness. It must have been my imagination, but at the last instant, it felt like the wall reached out to touch me, rather than me reaching out to touch it.