E. took a picture of me at the Western Wall yesterday. An art history PhD student, she is the only one of us traveling with a proper camera. I haven’t seen it yet, but I know it will make me uncomfortable to see myself that way, hands pressed hard into ancient rock.
Here are my literary notes from yesterday:
Obviously stone cannot move, rock is unyielding. If you hold your hands above your head long enough in the midday desert heat, you are bound to feel your pulse thrum against your palms. The ocean wave vibration of the wall is dependent on its visitors. I doubt the polished surface pulsates in the middle of the night.
I have learned that it is perfectly acceptable to identify as a Jew who does not believe in god (I choose not to capitalize). That is apparently quite normal amongst the secular Jews who make up the majority of Israel’s population. I have also re-learned how to feel connected to a place. I do not feel that for Los Angeles as I did (and do) for Montreal. I’ve learned that massive religious/spiritual displays, like the shabbat celebrations every week at the Kotel, are essentially empty to me, but I have also learned that I am not wholly incapable of buying into the rippling illusion when I stand there by myself.
S. said we place our hands on the wall and push. There’s no satisfactory explanation for this. Like most aspects of religion, it is simply what is done. I have the suspicion that were I to lightly lay my hands against the structure, I would feel very little. I left a note in a crevice of the stone, but what do you say? I didn’t know to whom I should address the message.
Dear God, it’s me, Mirah, and I would like a pony.
I have learned that it’s generally okay to know nothing. In an intellectual sense, I do not know how I am meant to approach this wall. So I go with it, toward it, and remind myself that feeling is first. I have always had a strong affinity for material objects. Perhaps there is no inherent divinity in rocks. Perhaps the stones I place at the graves of half-buried soldiers are more valuable. But mostly I think it is fine, and possibly even encouraged, to acknowledge a wide dearth of answers. Rocks and stones may break my bones, but walls will never hurt me.