Yom Yerushala’yim (Jerusalem Day) marking 46 years since the re-unification of Jerusalem took place this past Wednesday (8 May 2013). In honor of the holiday and in memory of those who fell in the Battles for Jerusalem (in 1948 and 1967), Jay and I went on walkabout to and around the Old City. We stood together before the Western Wall in the Western Wall Plaza area and in one voice sang out – loud and clear – the Hallel* prayer. We did not bring a publicist, we did not bring cameras or media, I did not wear a tallit…and so our joint prayer was noticed only by G-d and did not cause discomfort to any human being. I note that, just as we began singing Hallel, a group of Muslim visitors finished listening to their tour guide’s explanation about the Western Wall. They are visible in the central background of the photo below, since the Western Wall area is a place of prayer and gathering for all people, no one disturbed the visit of this group of Muslims.
After singing Hallel, we went into the Jerusalem Archaeological Park, where, while looking at the Robinson Arch area with its small platform (which is also part of the western retaining wall of Herod’s Temple), we sang more Tehillim (Psalms) without disturbing anyone or being disturbed by anyone.
We followed this up with a visit to the Hulda Gates area, the southern retaining wall of the Temple, and as we walked up the stairs built by Herod, more than 2000 years ago for the Second Temple, we sang out “Shir HaMa’a lot”**. We felt that it was the most appropriate place to recite this group of Psalms because the steps were designed – one long step followed by one short step – to allow for the cadence of the Tehillims’ (Psalms’) syllables to be reflected in the very architecture which led the ancient Jewish Pilgrims up to the Jewish Temple.
Once we had completed our visit of the Jerusalem Archaeological Park we went out Sha’ar Ha’Ashpot (Dung Gate) and followed the sidewalk along the Southern boundary of the Old City. At its end we turned left into the Yeusufia Muslim Cemetery which is located just below the Eastern retaining wall of the Temple Mount. Here we came across Muslim workers repairing the paving stones of the sidewalk but they made no effort to prevent or impede our progress through the cemetery. We continued our long walk until we reached our goal.
As we stood before the sealed Sha’ar Ha’Rachamim (Gate of Mercy), [known to Christians as the Golden Gate and known to Muslims as Bab al-Dhahabi (Gate of Eternal Life)], I felt that, despite the fact that the Gate is sealed, my Tehillim singing and personal prayer would be received. After apologizing to the souls of those buried in front of Sha’ar Ha’Rachamim I stepped over their graves to get close to the Gate to pray. For me praying at Sha’ar Ha’Rachamim which by most accounts stands directly in front of the entrance to the Jewish Temple is the closest to praying on the Temple Mount and is for me the equivalent to standing directly before the Throne of the Mighty and Merciful G-d of Israel.
Then we made our way to the Lion’s Gate (St. Stephen’s Gate) where I stood for a long while visualizing the IDF Paratroopers coming up the road in 1967 on their way to liberating the Old City of Jerusalem.
Once inside Lion’s Gate I looked South over the Plaza of the Mujahideen and through the gate saw a bit of Haram El Sharif (Temple Mount). I was overcome with longing to walk onto Temple Mount, to see how it has changed since my last visit there on 29 September 2000. But for now, I am happy to have been able to walk about and pray at the different sides of the Temple Mount’s retaining walls, in so doing Jay and I fulfilled our Yom Yerushala’yim goal to “Walk about Zion, go round about Her.” (Psalm 48:12)
*Hallel: meaning “Praise” is a Jewish prayer during which Tehillim (Psalms) 113-118 are song in praise of G-d and thanksgiving to G-d. The prayer is recited on Jewish holidays. Zionist Jews recite this prayer on Israeli Independence Day and on Yom Yerushala’yim because for us both of those days are holidays.
**Shir HaMa’a lot: meaning “Song of Ascent” or “Song of Steps”. This is the name given to Tehillim (Psalms) 120 – 134, (119-133 according to the Septuagint and Vulgate numbering system for Psalms), because each one of them begins with the words “Shir HaMa’a lot”
All photos for this blog post are by Isa David-Ben-Rafael and are owned by IsraeLightly.