David Mandel
Chief Executive Officer, OHEL Children's Home and Family Services

Sounds of the Kotel

Savoring sights and memories of a trip to Israel is an inexpensive long lasting benefit. I return from one of my many trips to Israel reclaiming timeless sounds.

‎Certainly the many languages added to Hebrew and English are heard in many parts of Jerusalem no where more than the Kotel, the Western Wall. English in distinct accents spanning the globe with mixtures of Arabic , French, German, Chinese, Japanese, and every dialect on the  South American and African continents spoken here. Surely the meeting place of the seventy languages of the world.

Amongst many of G-d’s gifts we take for granted is our ability to hear (that is until we see people speaking in sign language, young kids with cochlear implants or older people with hearing aids).

Standing at the Kotel one morning I was ‎fortunate to hear a ceremony for one hundred and twent five combat officers returning from a week long trip to Poland. Their visit to concentration camps was part of their two year long intensive training each to become a commander in each of the twelve branches of Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF).

Berets worn by battle skilled company commanders in elite combat units ‎tell a story.

Earlier that same morning while‎ davening (praying) at the first minyan the sounds heard are a cacophony of Jewish cultures. Israeli and European Ashkenazi, Iraqi Yeminte Moroccan  Sephardic and men in braids pining for a good photo up. Then at exactly at 5:36am all goes silent as all in prayer stand as one before G-d for the Shmoneh Esra liturgy. Only the sounds of chirping birds in the burrowed holes of the kotel were heard in these silent few moments of prayer.

Which well worn American tourist hasn’t said Shalom in their finest Ivrit only to be answered by an Israeli ‘I speak English’ as he painfully hears their accent.

‎And who hasn’t been the object of a good yelling to as he hesitated a millisecond too long at a changing light.

Don’t get in the way of a hurried Israeli a rather impatient lot. You will hear many sounds from them.

Sightseeing is an integral part of any vacation.

Israel, a tiny nation with so much to see above and below ground can beautifully fill two days or two weeks.

But then again, there’s equally so much to hear.

About the Author
David Mandel is CEO of Ohel Children's Home and Family Services. For more than 50 years, Ohel has provided a safe haven for those suffering in the community. Ohel cares for more than 17,000 individuals in the New York metropolitan area and across all communities offering a broad range of mental health services including outpatient counseling, trauma, anxiety, eldercare, respite and housing.