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Behind the Wailing Wall

Behind the Wailing Wall

DESTINATIONS, ISRAEL, MIDDLE EAST, SITES TO SEE

The Western or Wailing Wall is for many millions around the world, one of the great holy spots in the world. It is commonly thought of as being part of the original and second Temple.  Imagine that, the original Temple built by David.

I had the opportunity to visit the Wall on my National Geographic Expeditions tour operated by Meiji Tours. I’ve now been to the Wall which is an incredible experience. More than that, I now understand the Wall for what it is. And I’ve been behind the Wall which is more than incredible. And I did it on a week when historic news about the wall and its environs were making history.

 

The Wailing Wall, Jerusalem
The Wailing Wall, Jerusalem
Kids praying at The Wailing Wall, Jerusalem
Kids praying at The Wailing Wall, Jerusalem
Men praying at The Wailing Wall, Jerusalem
Men praying at The Wailing Wall, Jerusalem
Women praying at The Wailing Wall, Jerusalem
Women praying at The Wailing Wall, Jerusalem

 

 

The Wall is part of the original temple compound which was a series of enclosures, the most central of which was the holy of holies.  Inside the Wall is the Temple Mount, a large (half mile across) courtyard with a number of different structures on it.  The most amazing structure on the Temple Mount is the Dome of the Rock (Al-Aqsa Mosque), a beautiful mosque located in the Old City of Jerusalem.

 

Dome of Rock, Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Israel
Dome of Rock, Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Israel
Temple Mount grounds, Jerusalem, Israel
Temple Mount grounds, Jerusalem, Israel
Temple Mount grounds,  Jerusalem, Israel
Temple Mount grounds, Jerusalem, Israel
Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount, Jerusalem
Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount, Jerusalem
Dome of the Rock Tile, Temple Mount, Jerusalem
Dome of the Rock Tile, Temple Mount, Jerusalem

 

Access to the Temple Mount is highly controversial and a focal point of conflict between the Jews and Moslems.  The general status quo is that only Moslems over the age of 50 are allowed to go in to pray. Very few tourists are allowed in. And Israelis who want to pray are generally not allowed in.  In some ways, this is consistent with Jewish thinking in that only the Priest class are allowed to enter and pray in the center of the Temple Mount. But, normal Jews would like to be allowed to go up on the Temple Mount and pray around the outside.

 

Israel police guarding Temple Mount grounds
Israel police guarding Temple Mount grounds
Temple Mount Grounds, Jerusalem
Temple Mount Grounds, Jerusalem

 

 

At the moment, when Jews try to go up to pray, they are allowed to go up singly and only when accompagnied by two security guards.  This past week, a group of Jews, as part of a provactive move, sought access to the Temple Mount which created such a volatile situation that the Temple Mount was closed to everyone for a day.  This was the first time this has happened in decades.

But two days later, it was open for business again and we visited it this past Monday. We waited in a line, went through a slow security check, and were accompanied around for a quick and somewhat tense visit around the Temple Mount. We even heard a short private speech from the Iman (religious leader) of the Dome of the Rock Mosque.

 

Crowds waiting at entrance to Temple Mount, Jerusalem
Crowds waiting at entrance to Temple Mount, Jerusalem
Entrance to Temple Mount, Jerusalem
Entrance to Temple Mount, Jerusalem
Iman (religious leader) of the Dome of the Rock Mosque, Temple Mount
Iman (religious leader) of the Dome of the Rock Mosque, Temple Mount

 

 

While we were going up the Temple Mount, one group came through and with Israeli security closing watching, they were allowed up on the Temple Mount.

As I write this, later the same week,  Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock are headline news around the world. The dispute over access to the area behind the Wailing Wall has turned violent and there’s been related violence in Jerusalem with driver intentionally hitting a dozen or so citizens with his car.  This is all just a few blocks from where I am.

While I intended to visit historical sites, I’m now witnessing another chapter of history being written from a front row seat. Fascinating but given the growing violence here in Jerusalem, I’m relieved that I’ll be in more peaceful less political parts of the country for the rest of the trip.

 

About the author

Carmen Edelson is the Founder and Senior Editor of Carmen's Luxury Travel. Carmen has been traveling the world for over a decade. Our travels allows her the opportunity to pursuit her itch to travel to the best luxury destinations, and experience those first class tastes from around the world.

17 Comments

  1. John e
    November 6, 2014 at 7:14 pm
    Reply

    Hi Everybody, Thanks for your concerns. We are now out of Jerusalem which is where all the violence and excitement is. We are spending the night down in a kibbutz near the Dead Sea. From here on in, it’s all travel through relatively non-political or sensitive areas.

    Here’s CNN’s reporting on the events of the last few days:
    http://edition.cnn.com/2014/11/05/world/meast/temple-mount-clashes/index.html

  2. Els
    November 6, 2014 at 8:41 pm
    Reply

    Going there in December, can’t wait!

    • Carmen
      November 8, 2014 at 4:09 pm

      Hi Els, That’s wonderful. You will love it. It’s a unique place with mixtures of people from around the world. Are you coming with a tour or on your own?

  3. Natasha Amar
    November 7, 2014 at 8:36 am
    Reply

    Interesting post on a part of the world I don’t see too many articles about.
    Thank you for sharing!

    • Carmen
      November 8, 2014 at 4:12 pm

      Hi Natasha, It is an interesting part of the world that many people are unaware of what goes on here. All they hear is what the news reports. We were very lucky to have the opportunity to spend time with different party groups to hear their side of the story.

  4. Katie
    November 9, 2014 at 8:40 am
    Reply

    Wow, very powerful stuff! Glad you are all okay, and that you got to experience the Wailing Wall before the unrest set in.

    • Carmen
      November 12, 2014 at 10:47 pm

      Hi Katie,

      It was quite an experience being part of all the events that were unfolding in front of us. I have a lot of stories to write, hopefully I’ll catch up in the next few weeks.

  5. Jolanta
    November 10, 2014 at 4:10 am
    Reply

    Looks like an amazing place, but the constant volatility of the situation in the area means I will most likely never get to see it. I am glad you got to see the place, though. Thank you for writing the post and posting the photos.

    • Carmen
      November 12, 2014 at 10:51 pm

      Hi Jolanta,

      We had been wanting to go to Israel for the last few years. Every time we would plan a trip, they would go to war. We were worried about all the fighting in the last few weeks prior to the trip, and how it was going to affect our trip. Lucky for us it all went well and we got home safe and sound yesterday evening. It’s a beautiful country.

  6. Katrina
    November 10, 2014 at 3:37 pm
    Reply

    I’ve always wanted to visit Israel and Jerusalem specifically. I’m glad you guys have stayed safe thus far, and I hope the rest of your trip is peaceful. As always, I pray for peace in Israel.

    • Carmen
      November 12, 2014 at 11:46 pm

      Hi Katrina,

      I hope they come to an agreement one day, but it sounds like they are years away from peace. Israel is a wonderful place to visit. I’m happy that we had the opportunity to go this time.

  7. Shaun
    November 14, 2014 at 1:20 am
    Reply

    Interesting take. I am on the fence about visiting Israel next year. Im heading to Jordan and being so close I feel like I have to go. Hopefully things calm down by then.

    Shaun
    http://www.thislifeintrips.com

    • Carmen
      November 15, 2014 at 9:01 pm

      Hi Shaun,

      If you’re going to Jordan then I would highly recommend a visit. I really wanted to go visit Petra but our time was limited and we had to come home. Israel is a country that will continue to be in an uproar for a few years.

  8. Shikha (whywasteannualleave)
    November 14, 2014 at 7:24 pm
    Reply

    Gosh that must have been quite an overwhelming experience having all these events unfold in front of your eyes – I’d never heard of the Wailing Wall before – must be such a fascinating part of the world to visit!

    • Carmen
      November 15, 2014 at 9:06 pm

      Hi Shikha,

      The Wailing Wall is the holiest shrine of the Jewish world. It’s where all the Jewish community comes to pray. We experienced a few other events during our visit which I will be writing about shortly.

  9. Mary {The World Is A Book}
    November 16, 2014 at 6:51 am
    Reply

    This was quite a memorable and unforgettable experience for you. I’m glad you were able to visit and got out safely. What a great insight and perspective other than what we normally hear from the media. Beautiful and inspiring photos!

    • Carmen
      November 16, 2014 at 10:22 pm

      Hi Mary,

      It was quite the trip. Most of our friends who are from Israel couldn’t believe we went into some of the areas we did. When you’re in the middle of it all you definitely get a different perspective, then what you hear from others. The news doesn’t cover everything, only what they want you to know.

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