The Kotel, Runs Deep

October 22, 2013
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The Kotel runs deep.

Walking through Jerusalem, with it’s markets and vendors packed into a tight space designed just for the purpose of traders and herders from corners of the Middle East to share their goods, I remember. It’s been that way, for a long time.

My feet remember the feel of hard, smooth stone built from walls of the ancient city, and a feeling that the masonry goes down for miles, below the ground, a road to a time written in a thousand different tales, from as many points of view.

My nose can still recall the faint mustiness of the Old City, mixed with spice, fresh bread, incense, sweat, and the palpable scent of timelessness. Each quarter, with it’s subtle shifts in architecture, holding a unique aroma that may well have been infused in the limestone which built them.

Ear’s memory can draw on the dozen languages spoken in the old city on any given day, some having been there for centuries, some only arriving after the advent of human flight. Some words are in the ancient language of barter, some in song and chant, others came to me in anger and want, some floated in kindness.

Images I cannot forget: a depiction of the open air, Roman marketplace built to cultural style and specification; the caves below an ancient church; and the wonder of construction running deep, so deep under the city, today being excavated to sate both political ends and an insatiable human curiosity asking, how, and why.

That construction runs near the Temple Mount, just beside the Western Wall, the Kotel, in the ancient City of David, in the modern neighborhood of Silwan which has been occupied by Jews, Muslims, and other cultures for thousands of years.

The Wall, is guarded by x-ray scanners. On one side men pray, on the other side women pray. The women get less space. Every nook of stone is filled with little wishes from a million striving hearts and pondering, seeking souls. Orthodox men can been seen davening through the night; Women of the Wall sing to a liberation of their faith and share fruit with those willing to sing with them, on festive days and the Sabbath. Children step up to the Bimah for the first time.

I’d never faced a wall that transforms into a mirror. Looking into the stone with a gentle touch of palm there were messages, perhaps waiting there for me, written for and given to my heart alone. How? Why? Maybe there is no god and the collective human consciousness focused on the Mount by millions manifests for visitors to see and hear? Maybe it’s all in our heads? Maybe it is truly holy, maybe it is divine?

Within though, without doubt, there is an infinite and eternal quality. Where the Kotel stands is marked as a place of congregation, power, and purpose for much of humankind. Beneath, we are all wrought of the same stone.

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Lee Frankel-Goldwater is a professional environmental educator, writer, and social good project developer as well as a recent graduate of NYU's Environmental Conservation Education masters program. Lee has also studied at the Center for Creative Ecology on Kibbutz Lotan, Israel and at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. Currently he has been leading development of the Global Action Classroom, an Earth Child Institute initiative focused on global youth environmental cooperation and helping to create the Global Sustainability Fellows, a program of The Sustainability Laboratory seeking to design a new and innovative, international sustainability masters program. Other projects include: developing mobile applications for encouraging social action, mixed media video design, leading peace and environmental education workshops, and doing his best to live a life in connection with the Earth while helping others to do the same. At heart Lee is a poet, traveler, musician, and philosopher with a deep curiosity for new experiences, unfamiliar cultures, learning languages, and often dancing to the beat of a different drummer. As student of yoga, meditation, and spiritual arts, Lee aims to connect the inner journey with the outer one, hoping, as he can, to share what is learned along the way, enjoying the journey.

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