It’s still beautiful and moving, but recent decades have done something strange to the ‘Kotel,’ our first stop along the deconstructed tourist trail. What happens when a site is the object of both religious longing and military identity?
Read part one of The Beaten Path, ‘An introduction, or how to ruin a good story’
There are so many advantages to not being a tourist. For one, I know the best way to get to Jerusalem from Tel-Aviv. Busses only reach the main terminal, which is located on the western outskirts of town and requires a further trip by the light rail. The Sherut minibuses, however, go all the way to the city center, a mere five minutes’ walk from the Old City’s ramparts and the beauty therein.
I actually hop off earlier, because, not being a tourist, I know a good little hole in the wall Mizrahi restaurant in which to stop for lunch (“Ta’ami” on Shamai st. Their menu hasn’t changed since 1957). Not being a tourist, I also know a shortcut, so within 15 minutes I make it all the way from the restaurant to the Western Wall, and walk my very full stomach through the metal detector.
From this point onwards, however, I would much rather be a tourist.
The religion of longing
It’s perfectly alright for a historical site to come with baggage. One would be hard pressed to find one that isn’t in this country. Still, I’m a little more sensitive when it comes to the Western Wall. I guess I just deeply love it. It is an authentically Jewish symbol, and I love Judaism.
I love Judaism for the same reason I love the blues. Picture the cliché of an old timer blues musician, taken to an extreme. He’s poor, he’s blind and he’s the victim of a severly racist system. His girl left him and his drinking habit won’t. What does he do with all that? He makes art, beautiful art. Here is what Judaism has been for over two millennia: a creative response to a being extremely unlucky.
There once was a religion that centered on a temple, where sacrifices were performed by priests. The last and finest of those temples was destroyed in 70 AD and left the people irrecoverably scarred. Rather...Read More