Sunday, October 19, 2008

Garden of Gethsemane and the Western Wall

Further down the hill we find the Garden of Gethsemane. Here at least a tiny patch of land remains, uncovered by human construct of stone and mortar. Crouch down, restrict your view to the dozen or so ancient olive trees and you can almost imagine...

Crossing the Kidron Valley we make our way up to the old city of Jerusalem and through to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount.

Once inside the security checkpoint, the first thing that struck me was the division of the genders and more specifically that the male section is wide and free-flowing and the female area comparatively tiny, with a further bottle-neck in the access path making the journey to the wall, one of the scariest crowd crush experiences I've ever encountered (and I’m a veteran of many a grunge rock mosh-pit). Needless to say my hackles rise. I don't think the men of our group really understand quite how hairy going the passage to the wall was for the women, or how it feels to be told that you deserve less space in the life, pushed over to one side like an afterthought. It took us maybe 20 minutes to move 15 yards through the bottle neck and small old ladies were being pushed over, children crushed etc. Utterly ridiculous.

Once past the bottle neck, there's far more space and a kind woman offers us paper on which to write our prayers.

It takes me a moment to get my head into an appropriate space and I write the hopes of my heart on the tiny white square, fold it carefully and push it into a crack in the wall. To do this alongside such clear religous fervour is moving and I feel suprisingly welcomed and part of the process despite being an outsider. Maybe the crush to gain admittance has bonded us, maybe it's offered a glimpse of what we all so often lose in the midst of our religous observances, that underneath it all we are the same. Our names for God may differ, but we come with common open hearts; we come through the common visceral experience that the world so often provides a little less space for us, but once through we are together, women, the same.

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