Standing in front of the Kotel, I feel rather out of place. Sweating profusely in my thick cotton jeans, I fiddle with the strings of the blue polyester shawl I received at the entrance. Finally, I settle on knotting the shawl at the front in an awkward bow to prevent it from slipping off my shoulders. Self-consciously, I realize my rainbow-colored Mickey Mouse bucket hat must make me stick out like a sore thumb.
The crowd thickens as I approach the wall. Every inch of the women’s side of the wall is full, and the rest of the crowd behind waiting for their turn. To my left, I notice a young woman in a headscarf with her face buried in her book, rocking back and forth. To my right, an older woman chants prayers into the wall with a melodic rhythm. A little girl in front of me greets the wall with a whisper, a pat and a kiss.
As I observe the women around me, the spot in front of me clears, and I realize I should step up before it fills again. I reach out, place my hand on the smooth stone, and bow my head to the wall the way I witnessed others before me doing. I close my eyes and let the wall ground me.
For a moment I stand there clutching the wall, unsure of what to do. Then suddenly, I feel the warm embrace of the entire community around me. It dawns upon me that although outwardly I may look out of place, standing here at this wall, I am a part of something. I am a part of a culture, a history, and a people. Growing up in a small American suburb with a minuscule Jewish population, I spent my formative years in a disconnect from Jewish community. Intellectually, I knew that I was Jewish. But now, for the first time, I more fully feel what that means to me. Standing with my head to the wall, I let the visceral sense of belonging wash over me. When I lift my head, my mind is clear, and my body is light.
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