a personal account of reaching the Kotel in 1967

    August 2009            
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After the 1967 War: A Hands-on Jewish Experience

By Pnina Usherovitz

It was the summer of 1967 shortly after the Six Day War ended. A trip to Jerusalem from the Arava Section of the Negev Desert, where I live, was hot and long but there I was in Jerusalem after the long ride and ready to try to get to the newly freed "Kotel," The Western Wall.

The Western Wall, the "Kotel" is the only remaining edifice left after the destruction of the Second Temple more than 2000 years ago. It is actually a remnant of the wall that surrounded the Second Temple. It remains the Holiest Site for Jewish Prayer. Jews had not had access to it for years and after the surprising all encompassing victory by Israel in the Six Day War it was suddenly and finally once more under the control of Jews.

The climb up the Zion Mountain was not easy but the "treasure," the ability to pray at the "Kotel," made it more than worth while. There were soldiers all along the way and check points. At each check point the soldiers informed me that I would not be allowed to actually get to the Wall that day. Each time I would tell them that I did not live in Jerusalem, and had come from the Negev and had to get to the "Kotel" before going home. "OK," was the repeated answer "Keep trying." And on I would climb to the next check point.

At one place there was a command car of soldiers on their way to the top and they told me to climb aboard. Thankful for the reprise I scrambled aboard and rode until the checkpoint at the gate in the wall surrounding the Old City of Jerusalem. This point was very close to the "Kotel" which is located just a bit further inside the Old City Wall. But there before us, wearing their green berets, were the heavily armed and stern looking Boarder Guard Soldiers.

Once more I heard someone say that I would not be allowed to get to the "Kotel" today. And once more my story of coming all the way from the Negev and wanting so badly to get to the "Kotel" before going home was told. This time, however, there was a definite NO. "NO ENTRY TODAY." They had found mines and were exploding them and no one would be allowed in that day.

There was nothing to do but to stay over night and then, the first thing in the morning, with the sun rising, the climb began again. But this time nobody told me no. With the red and yellow light of dawn I climbed the mountain and got through the gate of the Old City and walked straight on to the "Kotel." There it was, not all orderly as it is today separated into men's and women's sections but it was there big and beautiful and mighty.

I have, thank G-d, been privileged many times since to get to the "Kotel" to pray. I have been there in the heat of mid-summer, in the cold of winter, in rain and in spring but I have never gone without remembering the first time. And each time as I get near enough to see the "Kotel" I feel it pulling me closer and closer until I find a spot that I can stand and put my hand on it and for a few moments rest my forehead on it drawing from it all the support that I long for when I am not there. It is a filling of spiritual batteries.

I lean my head on those cool, huge, ancient and rough stones that are smoothed over by the years and tears slide down my face and my soul relaxes. The tears are from gratitude that yes, once more I have been allowed to come close to the "Kotel" to rest and renew and hold on while I pray. All a Jew needs to do in order to know that he belongs there, is to go and place his soul in his hands on these stones. It is definitely a Jewish Hands on Experience.

Pinina is a 70 year old Wife/Mother/Grandmother/Photographer who likes to write. She came to Israel From the U.S. in 1966 and converted in Tel Aviv in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War.


from the August 2009 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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