The Western Wall

Friday we started classes. All I can say is that this is not a vacation! We take 14 credits of classes, but they say it feels more like 18. The teachers are experts is their fields, so they are just busting to tell us details and details of their subjects. It is really nice to be able to ask any question and know that they will have the answer, but sometimes those answers are hours long! 

We took our first "field trip" Friday afternoon. The Jews worship from sundown Friday to sundown on Saturday. At sundown on Friday they all go to a holy place to begin their worship for "Shabbat." or the Sabbath. The whole group went to the Western Wall, or Wailing Wall a little before sundown to be able to watch their practices. This was so incredible. The wall, believed to be holy because it was the one wall of the temple mount to be built by the poor people of the city. The Jews think that because they sacrificed to have this wall here, that it is one of the most holy sites. It was proclaimed holy in the 14th century after the Jews were unable to reclaim the temple mount as the Muslims had built the Dome of the Rock and were in possession of the land, as it is still that way. The part of the Western Wall that the Jews are allowed to worship on is about 50 long and goes up about 2 1/2 stories. We were told that we were standing 54 feet above the ground that Jesus walked on and when it was first built, was also another 10 ft. high, but was partially destroyed by the Romans. I would add pictures, but the Jews associate the flash of a camera with fire, and fire is not allowed to be made on the Sabbath, so they highly regulate people taking pictures during the worship service. The wall is divided into two sides, 3/4 for the men, and about 1/4 for the women. All of the men have to wear something on their heads as they are not allowed to come before God with an uncovered head. The women don't have to be covered, but many of them are. The worshiping was very different than anything I have every been around. Many people are touching the wall and singing and praying next to it, while a few hundred others are a few feet back, but singing at the top of their lungs in prayer groups. These groups dance in large circles clapping their hands and singing prayers. We joined in one of the larger groups and danced in circles for a while.  The men were much louder than the girls, and got even more into it as men got on other men's shoulders still yelling and chanting as loud as possible. We then got talking to a bunch of girls that looked our age that were dressed in military uniforms. They all knew perfect english and told us that they were 18 and by law every person must serve in the military after high school. The girls have to serve two years while men serve three. They were drafted a month ago, so they are just beginning their service. As all of us were amazed that they would do this, they were all really calm and talked about how they wanted to serve and how they owed it to their country, which had done so much for them already. It was a very different mindset from us kids in America. Their love for their country is very inbred and a part of the culture here. The whole experience was very mind opening and allowed me to learn to be respectful of the different religions and the different practices they have. This practice has been done for hundred, if not thousands of years. I'm just really glad I'm here to learn and see everything! 

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