In 1959 the Israeli government passed a law making the 27th day of Nisan in the Jewish Calendar (April/May) “Yom Hazikaron laShoah ve-laG’vurah” or Yom HaShoah, the Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day. This national memorial day commemorates the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust and for the Jewish resistance that fought the Nazis. This year the day fell on May 3, the day our group was to visit the Wailing Wall and Yad Vashem (World Holocaust Remembrance Center).
At 10:00AM on May 3, an air raid siren sounded throughout Israel and in observance of two minutes of solemn reflection, everyone around us stopped in their tracks, including motorists who stopped their cars while the siren blared.
No matter your background, this is a very emotional moment – to see and feel an entire country stop in total silence, except for birds singing, for two full minutes. Being of the Jewish faith, it held special import for me.
After the siren we made our way to the Western, or Wailing Wall. This is the holiest place to pray in Judaism – as mentioned in my last post, it is the closest area to where it is believed the Holy of Holies resided in the First Temple. It is called the Wailing Wall as many who come to pray are overcome with sorrow praying for those departed from this earth. While it holds premiere importance to those of the Jewish Faith, anyone can approach the wall. Some write prayers on small pieces of paper and insert the notes into crevices in the wall. These notes are collected at intervals and are buried in a Jewish Cemetery.
To approach the wall, men and women are directed to separate areas:
You can imagine the charged atmosphere following the moment of silence but I was still unprepared for what followed. Upon reaching the wall, I placed my hand on it, thinking to commune with my own thoughts, when I was hit with a wave of emotion so powerful that I had to kneel on the ground and the next thing I was sobbing uncontrollably. Fortunately a few of my fellow female travelers were nearby and were simply wonderful in getting me to a seat and providing comfort until I could regain control.