We drove to the Western Wall and walked up the hill. After a brief wait in line, we were able to spend some private time at the wall. Many people connected with both if our groups (EDOLA and NC) had requested prayers. Everyone either brought pre-written prayers from congregations or family or they send some time writing on the bus ride.
Approaching the wall, men were separated from the women. I can vouch for the women's area being much quieter and less populated than the men's section. We spent time in quiet reflection and prayer. Many held books, some stuffed their prayer notes into crevices, and many wept. It is traditional for one to back away from the wall so as to show respect.
Next, we managed to get in a short line to go up to Elharam Esh Sharif (the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque) on the Temple Mount. This is the third holiest site for Islam. It was built by Caliph Abd al-Malik, half a century after the death of Prophet Muhammad. The rock marks the site from where Muhammad's Mirraj or "Night Journey" into heaven and back is believed to have happened.
It is quite an honor to be there. Our guide, Iyad, told us about the five pillars of Islam and some other necessary details we needed to know while there. These included not touching each other (no husband/wife hand holding etc,) and no assuming any stance of prayer. While he was speaking, a group of people came through the Dome area security and were being escorted by many security officers. They were expected to cause trouble and were being watched closely to see that they were not going to do so. In fact, our group had to scurry to enter the Dome area because crowds at the Wall were becoming larger and more frictions were possible.
We enjoyed some time to roam around on our own and then met up for some explanations of panoramic views of Jerusalem that we were seeing.We could see Herod's temple, three towers, where the way of the cross was, the teardrop church of Dominus Flevit (halfway down the western slope of the Mount of Olives and where Jesus wept over the fate of Jerusalem), and the Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene, also on the Mount of Olives.
The service was in Arabic, the language of Arabic Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land and the sermon summary was given in English.
After this talk, we walked down Salahaddin Street to the Alshoula Restaurant where we savored lamb and beef shawarma with salads.
Reflections from fellow pilgrims:
Elizabeth Randall - "When we arrived at the Temple Mount and looked down on the Holy City, I understood for the first time what it meant to pray for the peace of Jerusalem."
deSha Carter - "Our visit to the Western Wall was so powerful and meaningful to me. I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit as I prayed at the wall."