Monday, September 08, 2008

Resurrection among the Ruins

I was a guest at a bar mitzvah recently. The prayer service took place at the Western Wall, though not at the well-known plaza that was created after the Six Day War. (The Western Wall itself, a retaining wall for the Temple Mount, extends far beyond the plaza in both directions and several meters downward as well.) It took place at the archaeological site of Robinson’s Arch, where more and more families, including religious ones, are choosing to hold their celebrations because of its relative privacy, quiet, and lack of restrictions imposed from outside.

I personally find it difficult to pray there. As I wrote in my Tisha be-Av post two years ago, to me it is the site of Jewry’s 9/11, with the stones that the Roman soldiers hurled from the Temple, still black from the fire, piled beside the broken street. (The Roman soldiers smashed the paving stones of the street so that they could descend to the drainage channels beneath, which the Jewish fighters used in guerrilla battles and through which they later tried to flee.)

Some of the children at the bar mitzvah played among the piled stones, over their parents’ worried protests. One boy is more careful, and even a bit reflective. (Zechariah 8:5 comes to mind: “The streets of the city shall be filled with boys and girls playing....”) Behind him is the Western Wall.

Children will yet play...

A worshipper, wrapped in a tallit (prayer shawl), prepares for the service as a Torah scroll, also wrapped in a tallit, waits to be read in the shadow of the Western Wall:

Before the bar mitzvah

The Southern Wall of the Temple Mount. Note the sealed gate at the top of the stairs.

Southern wall of the Temple Mount

A long view of the ruined street just beneath the Western Wall, with the family and friends of the bar mitzvah boy in the distance. (Note the construction at the Mugrabi Gate at the top of the photo. The familiar plaza of the Western Wall is just beyond it.)

Bar mitzvah, long view

New life sprouts near the ancient curbstones of the ruined street:

Life sprouts among the ruins

Yet even as I look at the ruins, I feel like shouting back two thousand years to the Emperor Titus: Nice try, fella. We’re back, we’re not going anywhere, and we show in our museums the rusty, crumbling stuff that you guys left behind.

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