After a few attempts, this song found its inspiration in a piece by master glass artist and Baltimorean Gianni Toso. The piece, called “Birthright”, shows the kotel on two sides: one, with a more traditionally-dressed crowd in gender-separate reverence before the kotel, and the other with mixed dancing of Taglit-Birthright Israel participants in shorts and T-shirts before the kotel. Their shadows seem to reach through the wall to the more traditional crowd. You can see the piece here: http://www.giannitoso.com/index.php/galleries/lampworking/birthright
It made me think about the two sides of the kotel, more in a metaphorical sense than a real one. I have no interest in Jews reclaiming the Temple mount or actually breaking down the kotel. What I think we need to break down is the kotel myth: that there is a particular geographical location that is a center of our faith, or our people, or God’s presence. Rather, we should find our center in the Jewish people itself.
On the Other Side
Verse 1: Every wall, you see, has two sides
The Kotel is no different
One where we gather, pray, yearn, expand, contract,
One is buried in memory and cement
While we fight over how to dance, pray, and who and when
The holier side is silently waiting
For someone to break through the stone within
To find the foundation stone still creating
Chorus: Cause the wailing we hear, when our hearts face east
Is because of the walls we devise
Face west, young Jews, and behold your people
For therein the mikdash* lies…on the other side
Verse 2: Well the first time that I felt its stones
I tried to get the vibe of holy presence
But as time went by those wails and groans
Only made me feel despondent absence
If our centerpoint is loss and shame and sadness
What does it make us?
8 million visitors every year feed the madness
Still 5 times less than Vegas.
Bridge: On the other side, may peace reign over all
God words shine through like a clarion call
On the other side, we’ll join hand in hand
May no walls divide us, in this or any other land
Chords: Chorus/Verse: Am Em D Cadd9; Bridge: G D C G (Am)
Mikdash – Holy Temple. After the destruction of the Temple, the congregation of Israel is referred to as mikdash m’at (a smaller Temple).
I felt it appropriate that I recorded the song in my sukkah in the middle of the night, connecting with a yearning for a more lasting structure that is always fleeting but full of meaning and mystery.email print