Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Kvitlach in the Kotel Katan

K is the letter of the day for us alphabet bloggers at ABC Wednesday.
Kotel Katan is my choice. Everyone knows the big section of the Kotel (meaning "wall" in Hebrew) over at Jerusalem's Western Wall Plaza. There are tens of thousands praying there these days of Rosh Hashanah, the new year holiday.
But further to the north is a small section of the same wall, less well known and apparently seldom visited. It is called the Little Kotel, the Little Wall.
The whole Western Wall is not a remnant of the Temple per se. It is the only remaining part of the retaining wall of the huge platform, the Temple Mount, built by Herod the Great.
The level of the land at haKotel haKatan is higher here, so only two of the original stone courses are visible above ground. The two lines of stones were apparently rebuilt on top of the Herodian courses during the Muslim Period (638-1009 CE). The wall itself dates from the Second Temple period, 516 BCE-70 CE.

I came upon it quite by chance last June while wandering in the labyrinth of narrow streets in the Muslim Quarter. Sometimes I like to get lost in the Old City and just follow my camera. Iron Gate Street ended at, yes, the Iron Gate and I was excited to see the golden Dome of the Rock mosque through the open gate. A tantalizing scene. The Haram es-Sharif, as Muslims call the Temple Mount, has been rather off-limits for a long time. As I got closer to take a photo, the young soldier, a handsome Ethiopian Jew, posted at the Iron Gate called me back and explained that non-Muslims were only allowed in at certain hours of the day, not now. Actually, I told him, I had seen a very small arrow to the Kotel haKatan several blocks away. Where is it? He pointed to an unmarked archway across the little street.
Not a soul was next to the ancient wall. Only a few kvittels, notes to God, had been left in the cracks. The stones were rougher than the ones at the big Kotel, which have been rubbed smooth by millions of pilgrim hands.

Quite awesome to be alone in such a special place, and for the first time.
Some mysterious support was ensuring the arches of the old houses would not collapse. I was hoping it was not connected to some archaeological activity below.
The Kotel Katan is much closer to the site of the possible location of the Holy of Holies than the larger Western Wall, so some religious Jews would be happy to turn it into a prayer site. But it is owned by the Muslim Waqf and it is the only passage for the Arab residents of the Rabat el Kurd courtyard to enter their homes, which surround the Kotel Katan.
This little boy suddenly came running in, singing. He was quite surprised to see me and became silent. I said in my meagre Arabic, "Hey, that's pretty. Please, keep singing."
He did . . . and disappeared up the stairs.


Webradio said...

Bonjour Dina !
les vieux murs sont toujours pleins d'histoires...
Photos très réussies...

Reader Wil said...

It's very interesting. I love going to your blog because it's so informative and brings the bible stories closer to me. Thanks for this post.

dulce said...

The photos are great. Thank you for sharing them and also the history and all!

Cátia said...

wonderful pictures! very nice

Suzanne said...

I was wondering if you were going to do something on the Kotel. But this post - OUTSTANDING. I too loved roaming the Old City because you come across treasures such as this. Off to Brooklyn for a Rosh Hashana dinner. And YES, my heart is still in the east. Happy New Year

petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

Fascinating, Dina! Through your post, I'm there...a place I've always wanted to visit. Thank you!
Have a wonderful Holiday!

Kim from Hiraeth said...

An interesting and inspiring choice for K.

I really enjoy your blog.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is very impressive!
You left a comment on my blog about John of the Cross. How did you come upon my blog?
It was nice to hear from someone who lives in the Holy City!
A belated Happy New Year!

For some reason I can't seem to post this comment as a Google Blogger,

tipper said...

I wish I could be with you on one of your "getting lost" journeys. Loved this post-especially the little singing boy.

Dina said...

Thank you friends!
Tipper and everyone--I wish you were all here. We would walk all over the hills and Jerusalem together!

Suzanne, well, you posted on knitted kippa so I was left with Kotel Katan. :) Isn't Brooklyn a bit far to go for Rosh Hashanah gefilte fish?

Shalom Edna. Probably some reference somewhere in blogland to your John of the Cross post brought me there, or maybe the "catchy" title of your blog. I studied a bit of John's "The Cloud of Unknowing."

Tipper, your latest post on hay is wonderful. I loaded tons of square bales from the field onto trucks and wagons at Heifer Ranch 1996-2002. Sorry I've been away for a while but I often have trouble downloading your fine blog. What to do?

babooshka said...

No doubt about it you have the most fascinating posts each week, infact on a daily basis. A belated Happy New
Year too.

Shimmy Mom said...

What a great find. I've always wanted to visit the Holy Land. Hopefully someday I will. When I come I'll have to have you show me this place.

Debbie said...

I love visiting here and getting a history lesson white photos.

Dina said...

Thanks Babooshka. No worries. Your new year wish is not belated. We are now in the Days of Awe, the period of repentence leading into the Day of Atonement (next Wednesday-Thursday). New Year, Yom Kippur--it's all connected.

Shimmy Mom, I'll wait for you. Sure, we can walk to the Kotel Hakatan IF I can find it again.

JC said...

Dina, I may get behind on reading your post but I always get to them. Very interesting about the New Year. What is the year in Hebrew? Well that was a dumb question, at least the way I asked it. O.K. so it is 2008 for me but for Jews it is many more isn't it? I read a book a while back about re-ordering our day according to a Jewish day. It said the Jewish day begins at 6 p.m. It also gave a year for the Jewish calender but it wasn't by book so I don't have it. Oh, well, as always, I love learning new things through you.

Dina said...

JC, it's a good question that I should have addressed sooner.
The Jewish day begins and ends at sunset. Like it says in Genesis, there was evening and there was morning, one day.
The year is 5769 "since creation of the world."

nonizamboni said...

Your wanderings had me on the edge of my seat. What a touching ending in song. The little wall. . .thanks for sharing so much of your world with us.
Happy Wednesday and happy new year!

Bear Naked said...

What a very interesting and informative post you have written for all of us here on ABC Wednesday.
Thank you.

Bear((( )))

Gemma said...

So interesting to see these pictures. Thank you.

Kris said...

I do like that stonework, but I am not sure that I would feel particularly secure with that kind of ‘improvised’ support system!

Catherine said...

What a nice and interesting walk when you follow your camera!
Please carry on!

Leora said...

Shana Tova, Dina. Thank you for this post on some of the Old City's ancient treasures. And those structures holding everything up are a bit scary; I hope these contractors and diggers know what they are doing, and everything isn't going to collapse in a pile one day.

mrsnesbitt said...

So very interesting! Thaks so much for the time you take to share the fascinating facts from your part of the world.

Miss_Yves said...

Fascinant !
miss Yves

Dina said...

Thanks for sharing your impressions about the Kotel haKatan, everyone. I enjoy seeing it now through YOUR eyes.

Petrea said...

Beautiful story, beautiful photos.