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Thursday, March 2, 2017

 I have a Jerusalem ritual.
Whenever we visit, before we leave, we go to visit the Kotel.
It doesn’t matter what time of day it is. The Kotel is always there, waiting.

 The Kotel. A wall so important it needs no other name, besides: “The Wall.”

 Cutting through the heart of Jerusalem, she stands.
Golden and patient.

 She calls, beckoning silently:
“Come to me. You belong to me. I am your past, your present, your future.
I have remembered you for centuries. I am waiting for you now.”

 There are always people at the Kotel; at 2:00 am. When it’s cold. When it’s hot. When it’s rainy.
Sometimes it is so packed you can hardly move. Sometimes there are only a few people.
There’s always someone: singing, dancing, praying, learning, teaching, sleeping, weeping, coming of age, alone, with friends, with brothers in arms... the Nation of Israel, in all her colors and variations.
And visiting friends – not of our Nation, but welcome just the same.

 When I visit the Kotel I get dizzy.
Every time.

 The closer I get, the louder I hear the throbbing in my veins.
And when I place my hands on the stones so many others have touched,
My head begins to ache.

 Like blood pumping through clogged arteries,
A heart beating, strong and hard,
Blood trying to bring oxygen to every cell of the body -
But with difficulty.

 The Kotel is not the heart,
It stands between me and the heart.

 It is the Temple, not the Kotel.
As the wall, next to where I park my car, outside my home is not the place that calms my heart.
My soul breathes easy after I walk inside.

 Being almost there isn’t enough.

 How long would you stand beside the wall that stands outside the home that was once yours?
How many times would you come back to it, just to be there?
To be close to the place where your heart rested easy?

 Would you teach your children about the home of your heart?
And your children’s children?
And their children?

 Stolen from you, destroyed, reused by other people,
Would you keep coming back to stand next to the wall,
To touch it, to speak the yearnings of your soul?
The only remaining part of the place where your heart belongs
Or, to be more accurate, the only place you can freely approach.

 Year after year, generation after generation...
Would you remember?

 After you had a new place to live, would you remember that it is only temporary?
Comfortable as it may be, that it is not your true home?
Would you remember?
For how long?

 How many times a day would you speak of the place where your heart belongs?
How many times would you utter its name in your prayers?
How many times would you tell your children: “Next year we will be there and it will be rebuilt”?

 Generation after generation, century after century,
Everywhere Jews have lived
No matter how easy or how hard their lives were,
In Europe or the Middle East,

 There was always Jerusalem
And in her heart,
The place where our hearts belong.

 My Jerusalem ritual keeps calling me back to the Kotel.
Keeper of our memory,
Witness of our yearning.

 I touch the wall and feel the weight of centuries.
Of my people,
And our longing.

 Being almost there isn’t enough.

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