Jerusalem of Steel

A few days ago I felt an unexplainable urge to go to the old city and the Western Wall. I recently moved to Jerusalem and this was the first time in a long time I’d felt this way. I walked in the Jaffa Gate and decided to go down through the Muslim Quarter market, as I always have. I am glad I did. I had a great time; I chit-chatted with merchants, made friends with shop owners… Had I not received worried texts from friends, I could have easily forgotten that I was supposed to be scared. It felt wonderful and normal. Then I got to the Wall Plaza.

It was packed. As I made my way down to the Wall, I realized why- a military ceremony, a swearing in of soldiers to the IDF, was going to take place shortly. I had to walk past the enclosed area to get to the women’s section. As is fit to a military ceremony, everything was lined up and set perfectly. I passed by tables covered with guns, perfectly set, as if they were flower arrangements rather than weapons. Copies of the Bible were piled next to them. I felt sick.
Kotel 1

I got to the Wall, sat on the ground, looked up and enjoyed the last few rays of sun as it was shining on it. There were women of all colors around me. There were Jewish, Christian and Muslim women there. There were local women, and tourists, there were secular and religious. Some were praying, some were admiring, some were weeping, some were taking selfies; some were sitting there, like me, observing and absorbing.

Behind us were tables covered with tens or hundreds of guns.

This is not a political post, I am not arguing for or against the state, the government, the army or the Orthodox monopoly on the Western Wall. I think, however, that if they continue to argue that this is the holiest site to the Jewish people, they should treat it as such. These guns do not belong here, nor do these ceremonies.

Please don’t stand here, at the place where people gather from all over the world to connect with holiness, and confuse steel with gold, force with power, and nationalism with Judaism and sacredness.
Kotel 2

About the Author
Shikma Zaarur, Ph.D., completed her academic training at MIT and Yale University in Earth sciences. She recently returned to Israel and resides in Jerusalem.
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