Muss Magic in Jerusalem- Hannah Stone
Seeing the Kotel for the first time was an awe-inducing experience. One of the last remaining pieces of architecture from the time of the second temple was something I had heard about since my days in Jewish preschool. Later on, I would write notes for my Sunday school teacher to stick in the wall. But while I knew this wall was holy, I didn’t truly know why. It wasn’t until my third visit to the Western Wall that I learned about the history of the wall and the way of life it had once supported.
On this third day, I walked with my Israel Studies class through the streets of the Old City. Our teacher, Reuven, led us past the main entrance to the Kotel and through a private entrance to an archaeological park. After walking down some stairs, we found ourselves standing on the original road that ran alongside the Western Wall. We closed our eyes and Reuven helped us visualize what this road would have been like in the times of the second temple: a bustling marketplace full of residents of Jerusalem and Jewish pilgrims, with smells of the temple incense clouding the air with its splendor. I could feel the hustle and bustle of shop owners advertising their goods and throngs of people making their way to the gates of the Temple Mount. When I opened my eyes, I could still feel the rumble of thousands of Jews and smell the spices and incense in the air.
We walked along the wall to the southern side, where Reuven led us up irregularly shaped steps to the original gates of the Temple Mount, now boarded up and unusable. We learned about how the stairs’ irregularity helped the Temple Mount’s visitors enter a state of awareness. I felt this awareness as I took in the grandeur of the Southern Wall. As I looked at where the wall met the sky, I could imagine myself turning into a bird and flying over it and seeing the second temple and the Sanhedrin, with priests and court members conversing amongst themselves and commoners roaming the plaza.
As I walked down the steps and exited the archaeological park, I reflected on how the Kotel had a much deeper history and meaning than I had previously understood. Visualizing myself both inside and right outside the Temple Mount during its golden age made this holy site even holier. This visit to the Western and Southern walls helped me to see them not only as holy places of worship, but also as places that I could connect with my Jewish ancestors.