An update from Jaeidah R., a senior studying biological sciences and Jewish studies:
So far, I have only been in Israel for 1 day, and it is the day that we walked the city of Jerusalem, exploring all of the biblical stories that have occurred here. From the time that I landed in Tel-Aviv I knew that this land is one that I have dreamed about my entire life. Growing up Christian, these stories shaped everything about my beliefs and expectations for my adult life.
As we walked the streets of Jerusalem, and our tour guide vividly explained these stories, I felt myself transported into the times of ancient Jerusalem. When we finally entered the area that most Jews revered as the most Holy place, the Western wall, there was a heavy sense of presence that I found typically in my most sincere of prayers. As we walked the plaza of the western wall on the Sabbath there was an official who begged us not to take pictures or perform any work as we approached the wall. A reasonable request as it was the day of rest declared by God.
Before I approached the wall, I saw a handwashing station and thought it important to clean my hands before I stood in the presence of God in this Holy Place. Initially, I saw women wearing their tallits, some reciting the Torah fervently with the text very near to their face, and some packing the wall with their pre-written letters to place into the cracks of the wall. There I sat, pulling out my journal and a pen preparing to write. I had only written one word, God, before a woman came toward me telling me in Hebrew that I could not and should not be writing. Being that I do not speak Hebrew, and only understand few words of Arabic, I was weary that she was even talking to me directly. Once she made her declaration clear in English I put away my journal and pen before I took a moment to look at the wall and decided that everything I planned to write could be said just as well.
I took a moment to gather myself before I slung my backpack to my back and approached an empty space on the wall. I was hesitant to touch it because of its deep roots in Judaism. Yet I closed my eyes in prayer and made contact with the wall. My hands were shaky and unsteady, but I began to pray. I prayed for clarity, peace, and clear signs to direct me into the path that I was meant to follow. I then found myself in fervent prayer begging these things from God as a difficult decision has plagued me before. I shed a tear, then many tears until I could not stop myself from crying until I had moved from the women’s side of the wall back to the plaza. To some, the Western wall is just that, a wall. To some it is the closest that we can get to God’s presence after the destruction of the temple that had been dedicated to him. Nevertheless, it is a place of peace and allows some time for reflection in our busy world.