Touching the Western Wall

The Fellowship  |  September 12, 2022

Bishop Paul Lanier overlooking Old City, where Western Wall is in Jerusalem
(Photo: IFCJ)

Bishop Paul Lanier, The Fellowship’s Chairman of the Board, reflects on the holiest spot in the Holy City of Jerusalem.

Earlier this year, I was in Israel in the Holy City of Jerusalem. I think it might have been Shabbat – the Sabbath, a time when most of Israel closes down. But the Western Wall was open. This sacred space is the last remaining portion of a wall that once surrounded the Temple Mount where the Jewish Temples stood in biblical times. And I wanted to see it.

I was in Israel for a special reason. I was part of a delegation that was going to the border of Ukraine to see how The Fellowship is rescuing Jewish refugees. But on this day, I just wanted to see the Western Wall, and so I approached it.

I got closer… and do you know not a single soul was there?

It blew my mind. I could not believe I was actually going to have it all to myself. I got closer until finally I could touch the Wall with my trembling fingers — trembling partly because of an overwhelming feeling of reverence, but also because it was raining and cold.

Then I kissed the wall, because it’s holy. It’s a sacred thing. And in that moment it was as if I could wrap myself around it, as it was wrapping itself around me.

Where the Temples Once Stood

You know what the Hebrew Bible says about the Holy Temple. We read about King Solomon, the son of David, building this glorious ornate house for the presence of our most holy God.

And the Bible says that the presence of the Lord came with such power and force and glory that the priests themselves could not even stand. Can you imagine a presence so heavy, so powerful, so wonderful, that they just collapsed?

Well, that Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians decades later. But, just as the prophets had promised, it was rebuilt, and the Jews returned. Later on Herod came and modified it, beautified it, and made it this extraordinary, awesome thing.

A Sacred Place for All People of Faith

Of course, the Second Temple was destroyed as well. But for Christians, the story of the place where the Temples once stood—and where God’s presence once dwelled among His people—speaks to us because Jesus was an observant Jew. And he would be in the city of Jerusalem three times a year, as the Scriptures required. Each Jewish man was to approach the city and bring offerings to the Lord. We read of Jesus being there once the Temple was rebuilt. And so for those of us who are Christian, the Western Wall is sacred and precious as well.

For the Jewish people, the Western Wall is the most important place in their hearts. And to many people of faith, the Western Wall is symbolic of the Holy City of Jerusalem. And it is where The Fellowship takes your prayers every year. We take your prayers on that little piece of paper and insert it in the crevices of that massive, glorious edifice.

And as we do this, we are reminded: let us keep Jerusalem always in our hearts and pray for the peace of the Holy City.

-Bishop Paul Lanier