My family would never be classified as “observant Jews” but I still remember the incredible feeling that went right through my body when we heard the announcement during the Six Day War that “the Western Wall is now in our hands.”
And a week or two later (apparently after the mines had been cleared away), when it was announced that the public would now be allowed to go up and visit the Wall, we immediately got into our Peugeot Station wagon and set off for Jerusalem. It was a very hot summer’s day, and we had to park right at the bottom of the slope leading up to the Dung Gate. We joined the huge motley throng making its way up the long arduous walk. We were seven people in all, my wife, my mother-in-law (who at the best of times had difficulty walking even a short distance), myself and my four children (the youngest one sitting on my shoulders).
The atmosphere was already joyful and electric – we all knew that this was History, and that we were taking part in a day that we would never forget – but, whatever we felt was magnified a hundred-fold when we arrived at our destination. The square in front of the wall had been flattened and widened out and it was packed with Israelis of all shapes, ages, sizes and colors. Black coats and army uniforms, long dresses and mini-skirts were all interwoven. The one common factor was the incredible unity and happiness. Everybody was beaming! There was an overwhelming togetherness. No matter who we were, where we came from, what we believed – we were one people! We were all Jews!
And the Western Wall stood over us, welcoming us back, and letting the image of our heritage sink deep into our souls.
No barriers and no separation. And nobody telling us who and how we could pray, what we could wear, or where we could stand.
And then the government made a tragic mistake. They gave the site over to the religious authorities – and the magic disappeared!
Nathan Sharansky, in your lifetime you have been the most striking example of the “power of one.” You have won impossible personal and national victories and you have been an unconquerable champion of freedom.
If you can achieve the mission of getting the Wall back for all the people, this will rank equally with any of your other achievements. All power to you!