Frustrating Stones

I have not been in Jerusalem for several months. I don’t have a car, the taxi is expensive and the bus is not very comfortable. So I wait until a neighbor or a friend informs me that he is driving to Jerusalem and invites me to join him for the ride.

My first stop has always been to recite prayers at the Kotel. However, in my last few visits in Jerusalem I have avoided praying at the Kotel. For the past 25 years my prayers and the kvitel that  I insert into the nearest available crack in the wall have been unanswered. Not even the courtesy of acknowledgement of petitions which come from a humble heart.

It has become an effort for me to stand before the frustrating stones wailing my requests to my God who sees me not, who hears me not, who responds not. And still I believe with emunah shelema…with full belief… that one day soon my prayers will be answered. Twenty-five years of waiting is discouraging.

I miss my student days at Havat Halimud in East Talpiot in 1951. In order to leave the school grounds and to return, I had to show a pass issued by the military authorities since our school was but a few stones throw from Arab-occupied Jerusalem.

My friend Moshe… he later became an Israeli diplomat in London and New York… and I would walk down Derech Bethlechem or Derech Hebron until we reached Julian’s Way (now called Rehov David HaMelech), passing the King David Hotel on the right and the YMCA on the left.

We turned up Mamillah street (now Rehov Agron) and continued to the midrachov on Ben Yehuda. And there we would sit for hours at our favorite Café Atara, munching on their splendid assortment of pastries and washing them down with two cups of café hafuch.

After that we walked to the Street of the Prophets (Rehov HaNeviim) and from the roof top of a nearby building we could see the Kotel and the Dormition Abbey from whose window slots Jordanian soldiers had their rifles pointed in our direction.

Moshe and I both threw kisses in the air in the direction of the Kotel and with them went our silent prayers.

Since the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus was in Jordanian control, many of our classes were held in the Roman Catholic church of Terra Sancta.

My two favorite professors were Ernst Simon and Alexander Dushkin. Once I sat in on a lecture by the world-renowned scholar, Martin Buber. His Hebrew was with a heavy German accent and his words of philosophy were far beyond my understanding. Yet it felt exciting to be in a room with such a scholar.

When Jerusalem was liberated in 1967, I visited the Kotel, kissed its stones, wept, and prayed for the souls of those who did not live to see the restoration of the Western (Wailing) Wall to Jewish hands.

And at least once each year I re-visited the Kotel when I happened to be in Jerusalem.

Yet today, the stones remain for me frustrating stones. My voice is not heard. Only silence amidst the cacophony of the prayers of pious Jews.

When you visit Jerusalem and pray at the Kotel, please ask God to remember me and to respond to my cries for His help.

Twenty-five years is too long to wait for a reply.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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