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Encountering God at the Western Wall in Jerusalem

Ugandan Pastor Robert Kayanja at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on October 30, 2018. (Courtesy)

By Our Reporter

Every year, nearly 10 million people from all around the world go to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Most bring with them prayers written out. Joining in a spiritual heritage that extends back several millennia, they place these notes to God within the cracks of the wall.

In bringing these prayers, it is not just ritual or tradition: God is listening. He is meeting people at the point of their need at the Western Wall — which is what Pr Robert Kayanja found when he visited only a few days ago (Watch the video Here).

Preparing for Prayer

‘The Wall,’ as it’s often simply called, was once the retaining wall below the plaza of the Second Temple—the only part of the massive structure left standing after Roman armies demolished it in 70 A.D.

Also referred to as the Western Wall, Wailing Wall or Kotel (as it is called in Hebrew), it is considered by Jews to be the most sacred site accessible for them to worship at today. According to Jewish teachings, God’s divine presence filled the Temple and still rests upon this wall. It is one of the most meaningful places Christian pilgrims visit during Israel tours.

The Western Wall is a place in history where people have come, where they have believed God in moments of great crisis when they needed a supernatural intervention—as a nation and as individuals. Extending some 1,600 feet in length, it rises 187 feet high on the Western side of the Temple Mount—though most of that is not seen. There are 17 layers of the wall, with two of those layers only recently uncovered by archaeological efforts.

Visiting The Wall in person is a profound experience for many Christians world over. The rough stones (massive limestone blocks) are constantly surrounded by worshippers, many of whom participate in the centuries-old tradition of tucking written prayers into the cracks between the stones.

Stepping close, you can see these prayers—small slips of paper filling every crevice. Each note represents someone’s voice calling out to God—prayers of adoration, of gratitude, of desperation.

Coming With Expectation

Twice a year, the governing body of the Western Wall removes the written notes. Nobody reads them. And according to Jewish religious practice, it is forbidden to destroy anything with the name of God on it. So what happens? There’s certainly not room in the wall for decades of accumulated paper.

Jewish law dictates that holy texts may not be destroyed, and these notes fall into that category. So, twice annually—before Passover in the springtime and before the Jewish New Year in the fall—the notes are meticulously removed by workers who care for the site. They use ritually prepared wooden sticks to sweep out the highest notes from between the stones.

The scraps of paper are then buried in line with Jewish tradition.

According to Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, who manages the site and often escorts foreign dignitaries to the wall, the prayers are collected and bundled up into more than 100 bags. Rabinowitz earlier told media burning is a pure way to deal with the notes, but burying them according to Jewish tradition is more honorable.

They are buried in the sacred cemetery on the Mount of Olives, treated with the same respect as damaged prayer books or Torah scrolls. Out of privacy, the notes are never read, and the slips of paper have never been counted. This process newly exposes the cracks in the wall, making room for a fresh round of prayers to be offered up to the God—who promises to hear and answer each one (Prv 15:29).

Declaring Our Need

God wants us to know that when we come with hearts desiring to connect with Him, His presence will always be there. You don’t have to go to the Western Wall as a must—right where you are, right now, God can be with you at your point of need.

WITH SUPPORT FROM: PASTOR BILL SHULER/ JOSH SHEPHERD

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