Women at the Western Wall, Jerusalem

by Leslie Hossack

“What does Jerusalem need? It doesn’t need a mayor, it needs a ring-master…”

Three Women at the Western Wall, Jerusalem 2011

© Leslie Hossack

The Western or Wailing Wall is a 187-foot long section of ancient wall located on the western side of the Temple Mount. It is a retaining wall built by Herod the Great around 19 BCE. He expanded the plateau where the First and Second Temples stood, creating a wide expanse which is still called the Temple Mount. In 70 CE, Romans destroyed the Second Temple, and subsequently the Western Wall became the holiest of all Jewish sites.

Today, tension still surrounds this sacred place. In order to enter the huge plaza in front of the Western Wall, visitors must pass through airport style security. The fenced off prayer area at the base of the wall is divided into a large men’s section and a smaller women’s section. In the women’s section, most individuals are engaged in silent prayer and contemplation, and many visitors place written prayers in the cracks between the stones. These enormous pieces of limestone weigh between two and eight tons each. Altogether, the wall consists of 45 rows of stones, 28 above ground and 17 underground.

What does Jerusalem need? It doesn’t need a mayor,
it needs a ring-master, whip in hand,
who can tame prophecies, train prophets to gallop
around and around in a circle, teach its stones to line up
in a bold, risky formation for the grand finale

Later they’ll jump back down again
to the sound of applause and wars.

excerpt from Jerusalem Is Full of Used Jews, in Poems of Jerusalem and Love Poems, by Yehuda Amichai

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