My favorite place in Jerusalem was the Western Wall, sometimes incorrectly called the “Wailing Wall.” In Hebrew, it’s Kotel — it rhymes with motel. I used to go to the Kotel to leave messages for God. We all believed messages left there got to God (or whoever was In Charge) faster than other messages. I have no proof of this, but it’s as close to belief as I get.


I loved the approach to the Temple mount. I would stand for a while, looking down at it from the approaching steps, trying to form an image of what it looked like when it was the hill where God talked to Isaac and said He would never again ask for another human sacrifice. I guess this was not counting war, Holocaust and genocide.

Then I’d walk down the stone steps to the wall and get as close as I could, so my nose grazed the Wall. I would lay my cheek and the palms of my hands flat against it and feel the humming of power in those ancient stones.

Western wall overview

From close up, you see the messages, tens of thousands of messages rolled tightly into tiny scrolls tucked in the crevices between the rocks. Every kind of prayer, every kind of message, all on tiny folded pieces of paper, cradled by giant stones.

Tucked between the stones were all the prayers, hopes, fears, and gratitude of people who came to this special place to leave a messages for God.

The Wall talks to you: “Please leave your message here. God will check his messages and get back to you.”

I always brought a message and tucked it into the stones. I knew God would read my message and get back to me. As surely as I knew Jerusalem is the center of the universe and closer to Heaven than any other point on planet Earth, I knew because I lived down the street from his message center. If every prayer is heard, prayers left at this address got there sooner.

western wall with notes

There were groups of rabbis who spent their lives praying at the Wall. For a small fee, they would pray for you. If you believe there is a special potency to the prayers of pious men, the rabbis of the Kotel were worth a donation. They didn’t ask for much – whatever you could afford and for your money, you got a prayer specialist to put the word in for you.

I probably went to the Kotel more than a hundred times over the years, but I most remember this day above all others. I went that day because my mother was dying. I wanted to ask God to give my mother and I some time together. I wasn’t sure if I believed in the Jewish God or any God, but sometimes, you hedge your bets. This was one of those times.

It seemed pointless to pray for her cancer to be cured. It had spread too far, invaded too much. I accepted her death, but a little more time didn’t seem too much to ask.

I bought prayers from the rabbis, then went to the Wall and left my message among the stones.

Almost forty years have passed. I bet my message is still there, exactly where I put it with all the other messages left for God in the Western Wall at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Categories: Archeology, Architecture, Israel, Personal

Tags: , , , , ,

14 replies

  1. Thanks for the close-ups. I often watch this scene on one of the Live Jerusalem Cams. I almost feel I am there if I stand very close to the image.


  2. I’ve never been to Jerusalem but your description and photos reminded me of shrines I’ve seen in some churches where people leave little objects to reinforce their prayers – photos of the person they’re praying for, a model of part of a body that needs healing and so on. Or of the prayers tied on to incense coils in Buddhist shrines, with the incense coiling upwards to take the prayer to heaven. Our different faiths have so much in common and yet we fight so hard over their differences 😦


    • Hinduism and Judaism have a strong relationship. There’s a myth that when God sent Abraham to bring his word to the people in Israel, his brother (Ur, I think) was sent east and founded Hinduism. The rabbis believed it. I thought it was interesting, but I don’t know enough about Hinduism to judge. Still, an interesting story.


  3. Marilyn, this is so genuinely you, authentic, questioning, exposing the money-makers, and more than a bit haunting or teasing as to why, how, and to whom/what one prays. Mary’s song is interesting to me because it gives thanks for what has not happened as though it’s already accomplished. He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
    He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
    he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.”

    Soren Kierkegaard said “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” Thanks for the thoughtful reflection.


    • I have always thought that prayers works. I’m not sure it’s God doing the work. I think the process of defining what we want as a prayer, then sending it out into the world does something to us. I’m not sure you need to believe in a particular religion or dogma. Prayers makes you define something that is essentially intangible. Prayer makes it “real.” Or that’s how I always felt. Also, I think the process of praying changes the prayer-giver in some way I can’t quite define. Thank you for your comments!


  4. I was fortunate enough to travel to Israel a number of times and I will never forget the incredible peace and calmness I felt whenever I was close to the Wall. It is truly a special place ❤️❤️😢


  5. I wish we had an equivalent monument, or wall somewhere in this land we call “Land of the free, Home of then brave.” Lord only knows, we need some serious talking to free us from this mess.


    • Yes, we do. We also need this plague to morph into something we can live with. I’m getting really tired of being at home, much as I love home. It’s hard to be optimistic these days.


  6. I would be so tempted to peek at the messages.. and probably be damned to eternal Hell!!!!


    • I wanted to also but was warned to never, ever, ever remove a paper from the wall. It probably would have been in Hebrew and I wouldn’t have been able to read it anyway, but I really wanted to see what other people had said.

      There’s always someone watching you there, so you can’t do anything without getting caught.


  7. I sometimes wonder what He is thinking especially during tragedies. But then I remember that God gave humans the power to choose their behavior. That can do good or they can do bad. Just as one can try and stop the bad from acting out, so should the good help out other good people.
    It’s the power God gave to us, unfortunately, humans are prone to insanities, power hungry and lack any self control. Maybe He shouldn’t have granted humans that power to choose?


    • I have never believed that any God or gods could watch everyone, but I have always believed that honestly praying for something changes us in some indefinable way.

      If we couldn’t choose, we’d have to be constantly watched. Maybe the Power that made everything moved on to make other things and left us to become. Pity we don’t seem to have become better.


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