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‘As the mountains surround Jerusalem’

A visit to the Western Wall makes 'Bible passages become real' for Christian tourists from around the globe.

JERUSALEM — There are people with hearts of stone, and stones with hearts of people,” goes a Hebrew song written after the Six-Day War of 1967.

On a cold, rainy Sunday, Orthodox Jews wearing phylacteries stand next to Christian tourists in hooded parkas. They touch stones set in place some 2,035 years ago, utter prayers and stuff bits of paper into the cracks.

Visitors place handwritten prayers among the cracks of the Western Wall. (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD)
The Western Wall, built by order of Herod the Great, is a retaining wall for the Second Temple, where Jesus proclaimed that “not one stone here will be left on another,” as recorded in Matthew. The Romans destroyed the temple in 70 A.D., and now the Temple Mount is home to the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Sunni Islam

At this hotly contested place, of significance to three faiths, there is a hushed reverence as pilgrims scribble prayers “for the peace of Jerusalem,” as King David wrote in Psalm 122, and place them in the cracks. That peace seems elusive in the troubled Middle East. The number of visitors here is down, officials with Israel’s Ministry of Tourism say, as brutal conflicts in Syria and Iraq dominate headlines.

Still, Christians make the journey to see the sites they read about in Scripture. Nyabuto Marube, a Church of Christ minister in Nairobi, Kenya, visited the wall in 2014.

“Bible passages become real when you read them from the place written about,” he said. 

A personal favorite is Psalm 125:2: “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, both now and forevermore.” 

People of all faiths are allowed to pray at the old retaining wall for the Second Temple. Men and women have separate areas, and men must have their heads covered. (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD) Related:

At the Garden Tomb in Israel (see related story). (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD)

Filed under: Headlines - Secondary International

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