The Western Wall, Jerusalem

Image

The Western Wall

“Everywhere I look, I see something holy.” Terry Pratchett

We visited the Wall on our first day in Jerusalem. It is the Western Wall of the Second Temple that survived the destruction by the Romans, making it the most sacred construction for the Jewish people.The Wall is the closest place to where Jews believe the presence of God resides on earth.

Our guide Dvir, takes us to the viewing point on the roof of the Aish HaTorah building. I had seen the view before.

You can see the entire Western Wall, as well as the Temple Mount with the golden Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque.

I looked down awestruck at the presence of history.

Dvir takes us to a  private chapel in Aish Hatorah where we are left with our thoughts to write our prayers for the wall. That was incredible. I spent a long time composing each person’s prayer.

We walk through security and metal detectors and go our own ways to the wall.

Dress modestly.There is a separate side for men and women.

I find a place against the crowded wall and put my hand on it. I can feel the humans who have been there before me. Women are praying, rocking, bobbing, reading and chanting close to the wall.

The woman next to me is praying and sobbing uncontrollably. I try not to pay attention. She says something to me in Hebrew that I don’t understand. She asks me for a tissue in English. I had left my purse with Dvir and I never have tissues. I reach in my pocket and there is one thing – a tissue. I give it to her and now she is holding on to me and praying. I am forced into the present. Old and new come together.


As is the custom, I have quite a few prayers to put in the wall. Papers are stuffed and folded in every reachable crack.

The flecks of blue, yellow, and peach post-it notes, white paper with red, blue and black pen, scraps of graph paper and lined paper are all rolled into balls, wadded, curled, folded, and stuffed together in-between the rocks pressed in place by thousands of hands. I find a perfect place for each of them.

It’s hard to focus on prayer or a spiritual moment. There are so many women praying. Kids are running around.

A troop of Israeli soldiers are dancing and singing loudly.

Tourists are photographing, talking loudly and taking selfies. It is hard to feel the past.

But then I realize that women have prayed here with children running around for thousands of years just like this without the cell phone photos. I understand at that moment that I am as much a part of the history of the wall as the stones are. I feel incredible amazement at this connection.

Special thanks to Dvir Hollander, for his knowledge, insight, humor, non judgmental world view and kindness. If you are going to Jerusalem, I highly recommend hiring him – not just for the food, but for how much you will learn and experience. He has the unique ability to figure out just what you want to do and then he casually adds in what he feels you are missing. The trip was perfect. Contact him at Hollander2000@gmail.com.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Advertisements

Phu Quoc, Viet Nam

Phu Quoc, Vietnam

“To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me.” Isaac Newton

By the time I arrive on the island of Phu Quoc, I had traveled for a few weeks and covered a lot of interesting sites. Phu Quoc island is located in the Gulf of Thailand and closer to Cambodia than Viet Nam, It is not a very well-known destination outside of Viet Nam.

IMG_2567

The sky was blue and it was hot. There was a beach with lounge chairs and umbrellas, clean water to swim in, a book about the Viet Nam War that I wanted to read and a beachfront restaurant and bar.

IMG_2582

Though there were things I wanted to see on this island, I suddenly had no pressing need to go anywhere.

IMG_6070

I mustered up the energy to walk down the beach and explore my surroundings. I was in the tourist area.

IMG_2590

There were many hotels. In fact, I got lost on the way back and had to ask which one was mine, There were a lot of tourists but I did not hear any American English. The non-English speaking Vietnamese waiters would say things like “‘wunderbar or nostrovia when appropriate. They were used to throngs of German and Russian tourists.

IMG_2613

Beds were set up along the beach competing for cheap massages, manicures, pedicures, threading, (hair removal – which hurts by the way).

IMG_6106

It was really funny to do that on the beach.

IMG_6110

There was definitely a separation of tourists and locals on this resort beach. In a few years I fear it will run the risk of being another “anywhere beach.”

IMG_2596

Five star resorts do a really good job of separating you from the culture of a country. There were all kinds of resorts in all price ranges on this beach which gave it a funky quirky atmosphere.

IMG_6077

Further south on the island there are quiet beaches with local fishermen, white sand, kids , crabs and shells that are easy to get to by boat.

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 11.45.21 PM

The hotel I stayed at was La Veranda. It  is a French colonial style hotel on the beach. A lot of the staff doesn’t speak English but they are so charming and helpful. The front office deals most efficiently with the language barrier. It’s nice to stay at a hotel that gives jobs to the local people .

IMG_2606

I think it is the staff which makes La Veranda so wonderful. From the moment I arrived Lian was making sure all my requests had been taken care of.

IMG_2607

I had the best morning yoga classes on the beach and best massage of a vacation ever with Tham from the spa.(going to yoga 7am)

IMG_2616

Definitely book him advance when you go.

IMG_6097

The manager is always visible talking to guests, getting feedback and making sure everyone is having the best experience there. The level of care at La Veranda is amazing.

IMG_2621

Watching the sunset on Phu Quoc, I can really feel the miracle of a day. I am grateful that I lived these days on a beautiful beach.

IMG_6120

Di du lịch một cách an toàn,

JAZ