Jerusalem is a city of surprises. You never know what you will see, who you will meet, what you will witness or experience.
Sometimes it is the smallest incidents that are the most meaningful.
The last time I was there, it was a child.
It was at the Kotel. Every time we visit Jerusalem, we go to the Kotel. It’s a ritual. (We would ascend the Temple Mount but the visiting hours are so restricted that we often make do with the Kotel instead).
I entered the egalitarian prayer section. There is no separation between men and women, families can pray together, in any way they find appropriate.
It’s different than the traditional section, in many ways nicer than the traditional section. There are tables with umbrellas so people holding ceremonies can stand in the shade rather than the sweltering sun. This section of the Kotel has a section with archaeological artifacts still left in the places they were found, making it easier to imagine the majesty of what once was there when the ancient Jewish Temple was still standing.
Usually, the egalitarian section of the Kotel is empty but this time there was a family there.
I watched the father explain something to his wife and kids. They were Franco-Moroccan Jews. One of the boys, approximately nine years old was standing off to the side, with tears in his eyes.
I asked the father what had happened to upset the child, assuming that there had been a fight and the boy was pouting.
The father answered me with a soft smile: “Nothing happened, he’s just a little emotional.”
“Why?” I asked.
The father stretched out his hand, with one expansive gesture including the Kotel, the Temple Mount, the city: “Because, Jerusalem.”
In a heartbeat, the honest emotion of a child wiped away all the cynicism of daily life. Two words and the tears of a child summarized the legacy of thousands of years, of trauma and suffering, willpower and hope, arriving but not yet being there in a way that words never could.
I looked at the boy and back again at the father and there were tears in my eyes too.