My Jewish Experience

8 years ago Leighest 0

By Carly Meisel

I guess I was looking for connection. Upon visiting the Kotel a few months ago, for the third or fourth time, I finally found the meaning in the ancient wall I had never experienced before. I was living in Israel for a semester and had just found out that a boy in my grade from home had committed suicide. Dealing with that so far from my school and home community was tough. Even though I was in Israel, my favorite place in the world, I had been feeling far away and disconnected.

Walking up to the Kotel, I found the connection I don’t think I knew I had been seeking. I rested my head against the Jerusalem stone and instinctively said Oseh Shalom, the prayer my dad sang to me moments after I was born. Then I found solace in my siddur. While davening, I thought of my Grandma Judy, whom I never got to meet and had stood exactly where I was. I thought of my Grandma Carol, who passed away a few years ago and always spoke of her strong bond with the Kotel. I felt their presences strongly in that moment. I also felt the support of my family and friends back home; the Kotel helped me feel the inherent connection that all of Am Yisrael has. Even though I was far away from home, I was right at home: I really felt Hashem’s guidance and love. Praying at the Kotel felt as natural as it did because I knew Hashem was close-by and really listening. I understood that the Kotel feels so holy because it is a point of connection. It links us to the stories and memories of everyone who has been there. I felt overwhelmingly grateful and proud.

I said a prayer for the six million and thought of what they would have done to be standing right where I was, free and healthy. The famous photo of the three IDF soldiers standing at the Kotel after the 1967 war was at the top of my mind; we will never understand the extent they went to reclaim this wall, this city.

Next to me, a woman wailed, screaming and crying like I had never seen before. She gripped the wall and rested her head on it, her tears pooling in a groove in the stone. And then I really understood. This wall has seen the celebration of bar mitzvahs, the anguish of bereaved families, and every type of experience in between. This wall is ours — it belongs to every Jew just like Israel belongs to every Jew. Whether or not a person can find a connection with the Kotel, it’s the symbol of the strength and subsequent freedom of the Jewish people. It’s a place that links millions of Jews to one another — and that is what makes it so holy and personal.