I went to the Western Wall – the Kotel today – to see a young boy put tefillin on for the first time. The son of our cousins stood before his parents and showed how much he had been taught this past year learning with his father. It is such a wonderful feeling to gather with family for happy occasions. Too often, it is sadness that brings us together – this time, it was simply joy.
At one point, guards came over and explained that everyone had to move. A suspicious object had been identified, a backpack left abandoned for too long. The guards had tried to find the owner and as time passed, suspicion grew. It happens often enough that there is no panic, no worry. You simply move to the side, trusting those in authority to handle everything so that you can get back to what you were doing.
Those busy at prayer did not want to interrupt – making the work of the guards that much harder. The bomb squad arrived and the men’s section was completely cleared. Guards came to the women’s side and demanded more forcefully that everyone move. Now. There was no panic; no sense that this was really a bomb.
The tourists almost enjoyed the experience; the Israelis took it in stride knowing…just knowing that nothing would explode this day, in this location. Someone left their bag. It had to be. It had to be…it was.
In most places, the bomb squad takes no chances. They isolate the bag and shoot a low level explosive into it in a controlled explosion. This time, in this holy place, almost the center of the universe, the police didn’t want to blow anything up and so the policeman took more of a chance in checking the bag.
Once he was convinced it was harmless, he removed it carefully to the protected bomb container and worshipers were told they could return.
It was a normal day in Jerusalem. Later, Elie told me it was the second time this week this had happened. Nothing exploded; tourists have a story to tell when they return home. I walked up to the Kotel and stood there for a few minutes feeling so at peace. I prayed for the health of my children, for comfort for the families of those who have lost sons and daughters, husbands and wives and parents. I prayed for the recovery of the sick amongst us and for Gilad Shalit to come home, whole and well.
And after filling my mind with prayers, I stood there for a minute and just thought – God, thank you. Thank you for this amazing place you have given us – this land of Israel, this city of Jerusalem, these ancient stones that hear our prayers and direct them to the Heavens above.
I thought of the comment I’d answered recently and looking up, I whispered, “My God, how could anyone live anywhere else but here?”