Wednesday, July 28, 2004

I expected the Kotel to be even more threatening on Tisha Be'av. I expected anger, withdrawal, isolating dispair, many lonely men with their tears for the wall and the city, silent and oblivious to each other.  I expected to feel entirely alone.
I found something else altogether.  Many groups, small and large, sat on the ground, in spiraling concentric circles dotted about the tiled Jerusalem stone in front of the wall.  I crawled into one of these circles, and joined a loud chorus of Sephardis of all ages in singing the evening service, with soloists taking turns leading call in response.  A teenage boy with a taperecorder sat in the middle, trying to catch each soloist in turn. 
After praying with them, I crawled out of each layer of circle and wandered about.
The usual sea of black coats and hats that typically flood the Kotel was spiced this evening by a myriad of other colors--many Israeli kids who looked like they had just stepped out of a night of clubbing and strapped on a Kippah were there in tight, brightly colored tee shirts.  There were fathers and sons in whites and blues and even a figure tucked in a corner, between two arks, covered and veiled entirely with striped and torn cloths. Several crosslegged figures meditated silently. In front of the many circles of wailing singers and readers, the wall itself was lined with men and boys, hands and faces pressed up against it, hidden from the world. It was hard to tell, but it seemed like many were crying, or whispering inward.  But only the wall could see.
In the caverns that continue east of the main portion of the Kotel, I found a small group reading Eicha, and sat down to hear the wailing lamentation of the reader. A small boy, maybe 8 years old, with bright red payus, shared his copy of the text with me, holding it closer to me and showing  me where we were in the reading.  As Eicha completed, I saw people begin to pull out pillows, blankets, and even mattresses they brought, and find corners where they would be able to sleep before the great wall and mourn Jerusalem's destruction.  Upon leaving, I was overwhelmed in the current of pilgrims flowing in and out of the Kotel courtyard. So many people were entering and leaving. It amazes me that inside there was room for everyone to sit in circles so intimately.  The narrow cappillaries of the old city, through the arab shuk and nearly all the way to shear yaffo, were so brimming that at points there were clogs and pedestrian traffic jams. 
The following day was spent meditating and learning amongst most excellent holy company on many great questions: what would a rebuilt temple be? Would it be a physical space? How can one envision the world to come? What kind of wakeup is destruction of such magnitude? How can we be agents of building Mikdash in this world, working toward olam habba, being agents of ahavat chinam, senseless love?
Today, back in the lab, my boss has returned and he took me with him to check on his mummy samples, to see if they had successfully revived anything exciting.  We made some slides, and will check them tomorrow.


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