(I've decided to do a separate piece on food so you'll just have to be patient.)
It was while we were having lunch that I started to go through my photos. I had taken so many pictures and wanted to do so because then I would remember every detail and nuance of my trip. I turned the camera on, got into playback mode..... and found that my camera had not taken as many pictures as I had clicked away at. I'm sure you can imagine my disappointment as I was going through in my head the pictures I was missing, and frankly, could have cried. I tried it a couple of times, and the egg timer spun around and then came up with "card error".
Luckily, I had my phone and I had made sure that I had deleted all photos from it before starting this trip. And so it was that it was pressed into service. (I contacted the husband by email later and told him what had happened, and the upshot of it was that I bought a new camera, a Canon Powershot SX600 HS, for those of you who are into cameras).
It was after lunch that Moshe and I walked towards the stairs that lead down to the Western Wall in Hebrew, Kotel. It is the one place that if you mention Jerusalem, is the first that springs to people's minds. There was lots of noise, as I said, there had been a group celebrating a Bar Mitzvah, so they had a couple of buses.
I should also describe the scene. We were standing at a set of steps leading down to the area of the Kotel. There is an entrance as you can see in the photo, and inside, army personnel and police with security scanners, (it is a fact of life that you will have your bag searched before entering any public building and there will be security guards at the mall as you drive in, you get used to it.) At the far end, we joined a short line as Moshe was hoping to take me up to Temple Mount. We stood in a short queue only to find out that they had just closed the entrance so no one was being allowed through. Oh well, never mind.
So Moshe took me just a little further down and we went into the Jerusalem Archaeological Park. This really made you stop and think because I was standing in an area that Jesus would have been very familiar with at the base of the wall to the Temple, and in part of the original city that would have stood in it's shadow. We had seen a short film explaining how a pilgrim would have approached the temple and bought his sacrificial goat prior to going through the entrance to the temple, which was entertaining.
Now, the important thing to remember is this, to us in the 21st Century, we are used to seeing tall buildings in cities, it's what makes up most city skylines, and they are usually taller, bigger, more modern than the last one that was built. Now close your eyes and step back 2000 years or more, and put yourself in a pilgrims shoes. You had probably walked to the City of David which was the original city, and the hills that surround Jerusalem would have been wooded, no buildings, you enter the Kidron valley below the city and look up........
It must have been a pretty impressive view, as the wall is huge, even to me it was big. So, this photo shows the wall which forms part of the Western wall, and the remains of Robinson's arch, named after an American explorer, this would have been one way of getting up to the temple, there used to be steps here. You have to remember that the Dome on the Rock now stands where the temple would have stood. The stones are massive, and there is no cement holding them together, they are not going to move anywhere!
You can see the dome of the Al Aqsa mosque which is also on Temple Mount, and as we stood there looking up, the Muslim call for prayer went out across the city, and it was also echoed by another nearby mosque. The call really is very beautiful.
The Park was fascinating, and we found our way to the steps that would have led into the Temple area. It was interesting as the steps were staggered, Moshe told me that they wouldn't want you running up them as it would seem disrespectful, so you would be expected to approach it with a certain reverence, hence the staggered steps. He also showed me the original entrance at the top of the steps. There are actually two entrances, one on the right and one on the left, both now bricked up. This would have been the way in to the Temple area, it would have been through the right hand gateway and the exit was through the left hand gateway. However, if you went in through the left hand entrance, it meant that you had lost something, either a loved one, or maybe your sacrificial goat ran away and you were looking for it. People would stop you and ask what you had lost, if it was a loved one they would give their condolences.
I think this shot looks towards the Mount of Olives. At this point, it started to rain again, so we moved back into the entrance area and waited for the rain to pass and Moshe translated the call to prayer that we could hear. He really is a fascinating guide and has studied other religions which, as a guide, gives you, the tourist, a better insight.
The rain subsided, so we decided to head back to the Kotel, so we went through the entrance. Interestingly, there is an entrance for women and one for men, I just followed Moshe.
Once through the screening, we found ourselves in the courtyard area of the Kotel. Again this is so different from the photos that you see in guide books and old photos of the Wall. There is a women's section to the wall as it would not be right for them to pray in the mens section. I had another mitzvah to do for someone, so Moshe told me to take my time and he would wait for me.
I have to tell you that it was a very emotional experience. I approached the wall which was busy and waited until a spot became free, and then took my place. I can't tell you the emotions that flooded through me as I touched the stone in the wall that had stood there for thousands of years, it actually made me cry.
I prayed, and left the note in a crack in the wall, said another prayer, took a deep breath and moved away. It's no wonder that this is such an emotional spot for Jews and Christians alike. The photo shows the women section of the wall and the bridge structure would have taken us up to Temple Mount had we been allowed to go up.
The mens section was almost empty, but it had been raining hard.
I found Moshe, and then we dived back into the market as he wanted to show me something really special, and believe me, it really was.
Remember that this is a living working city, and we were in a less touristy part than before. And suddenly, we dive into this alleyway, no tourists and no tourist shops, just normal businesses, a coffee shop, a butcher plucking and preparing chickens, I'm really off the beaten track here.
We popped out the other end, and then I find myself walking towards a doorway that leads directly onto the Temple Mount. The doorway was open, and by it sat two policemen.
All of a sudden, he stops and says, "this is what I wanted you to see". And there I am standing there looking at another section of the Western wall. If you took out all the buildings that have now grown around it, and you were standing at the Kotel where I had just been, this would have been further along. This was even more mouth dropping as I hadn't expected this, and it so far off the beaten track, I doubt that tourists even know it's there.
Again, it was incredibly moving.
I am going to end this here, but I still haven't finished this day, but I think there is so much to take in that bite sized chunks is best.......... and I found this pretty emotional to write.