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Today, for the first time in my life, I visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Some of you know that I am in Israel with my Father. As we approached the plaza, we saw many orthodox men in a variety of prayer shawls, wearing Tifillen, davvening, some with payot, some without, some with black coats, some in modern dress.A number of men approached us asking for money for their various shuls and yeshivas, so before I went to the wall I turned around and left the plaza and went to a small store to get some change. An old Arab man owned the store, and as I walked in he said 'Hello my friend, how are you'. I answered him 'just fine' and bought a bottle of water and asked him to change a 50 shekel bill into 1 shekel coins, so I could give one to anyone who asked.He obliged me and we shook hands and I wished him Salaam.I walked back to the plaza where my Dad was waiting, and as we walked to the wall together and a few schnorers came up, I gave a coin to anyone who asked.One man came up to me and asked me for a coin and I gave it to him. He put his hand on my head. 'What is your name' he asked. 'David ben Walter'. Then he asked my childrens names, and my mothers name. Then he tears into a prayer in fast Hebrew and then English, blessing me, my Father, my children, my grandparents, wishing us health and long life etc.I made my way closer to the wall, a little hesitantly, and finally I reached it and put my hand on it. I don't know a whole lot of Hebrew or prayers and for a few seconds I just stood there not knowing exactly what to do. Eventually, I thought to myself, say the Shechyanu. It is an easy prayer I heard a 1,000 times as a child, and in a way, it perfectly captured my feeling, gratitude to having reached this day, gratitude to be hear with my Father, so I said the prayer.Then I felt a wave of emotion come over me. I said a prayer in English, softly, asking God to heal my daughter who has recently had surgery, and my ex wife, and my mother, and to keep my father healthy. My voice was shaking and I felt my eyes go watery. I stayed for about five minutes with my head touching the Wall.Then I slowly walked away. It was early morning, so the sun was not too hot yet. I sat down about 30 feet from the wall my Dad for about an hour. My Dad is a very social man, he will start conversations with everyone. So he is talking to this one and that one. I am watching him and he is having a great time talking.After about an hour of sitting, we went on the tour of the tunnels (thanks again silencer for the suggestion) under the Wall and had the experience of realizing that the visible part of the Wall is only a fraction of the Temple complex. The tour of the tunnels was fascinating, I love old archeology. My Dad had been in the tunnels when they first opened up and he was amazed at how much work had been done since he last saw them many years ago.Then finally we left and wandered the markets for another hour.After that we had lunch at an Arab restaurant called Philadelphia, which I found out was the name of the first Jordanian capitol. The people who worked there were very friendly and the food was terrific.They invited us back for dinner and promised to have a large TV so we could watch the world cup. My Father is not afraid to talk with anyone, so he was chatting up a young Palestinian man from Jericho, around 27. We talked about the differences between Lebanese, Syrian, Iraqi, Turkish, Armenian and other middle eastern food, including Israeli food. We agreed we liked them all.Then the young man started saying how bad politicians were, and expressed that he was against the intefada and politicians. My Father and he kept talking and eventually came to the conclusion that all politicians around the world should be thrown into the nearest river.Of course that is a simplification, but I am struck how all the Palestinians and other Arabs I have met have been friendly and have expressed a desire for peace. Of course the Jihadis would fight against that, but the everday people seemed like you and me.I bring this up not to prove any point, almost all of the Israelis I have met have been warm, 'Haimish', wanting peace, friendly. It is like a mirror image.What great things could be done if this conflict could be settled. Yesterday I went to Masada and the Dead Sea. Terribly hot, but something I also greatly enjoyed. Met four Australian young men on the tour who were serving as part of the peace-keeping force set up between Israel and Egypt. Very little action on that border and they were terribly bored when on duty. They decided to take their holiday in Israel, and of course like all young male soldiers, could not stop talking about women, and were open mouth amazed at the girls of Tel Aviv. And they could not stop cracking jokes in that funny Australian wise guy way. good lads, and very sympathetic to Israel.I arrived in Jerusalem after baking in the Dead Sea and Masada. Took a nap and then my father and I walked around Ben Yehuda street where there were dozens of open air cafes with the World Cup match going on. Everytime someone made a good play or a bad play, you would hear this collective groan or cheer coming from blocks around.The camraderie on the streets and the friendliness and fun loving attitude of these young Israelis was absolutely infectous. I think I just may come back and visit this country again.But, you all knew that, didn't you? I didn't when I left, but that is how I feel now.Shalom all ... Dov
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