Past the books and reading room there is a large space with small chairs so you can sit down and privately read or pray. I was there during the summer and there were fans set up in this larger room blowing toward the entrance. There were also a lot of rabbis in the room singing while they prayed, completely oblivious to anyone around them. I wish I could have recorded it, but of course that would be sacrilegious. It wasn't that the individual songs were noteworthy, but it was the sound of ten different people singing ten different songs at the same time, and very prayerfully. The prayers resonated in the stone chamber too, giving everything a cave-like echo.
Something I didn't mention, but this stone chamber is part of the "men only" section. In the picture above you can see there are only men even on the outside. That is the "men only" section too. The women's section is more to the right, and it's separated from the men's by a barrier.
(Note: this is from my 1995 visit.) Anyway, here's my story. I prayed at the Wall a total of three times on three different days. The first time was when my tour group arrived and the guide gave us 20 minutes to go and pray. As I was about to go in, some religious guards stopped me because I wasn't wearing a yarmulke, so they had me put on a cardboard one which they provided. I went inside the chamber and prayed in there, just to the left of the library. While I was praying I had the strangest feeling. It wasn't so much that I felt God was listening (remember, he supposedly hears all prayers at the Wailing Wall), but instead I felt this presence, like I was being watched, or like I was being filmed live on TV(?). You probably think I'm crazy, but you'll just have to go there and see for yourself. Actually, I had that same feeling at three different places in Israel: at the Wailing Wall; at the Garden Tomb; and at the cave where John the Baptist was suppose to be born.
When I finished praying I stepped back from the Wall and my yarmulke fell off! I felt like I was being rebuked or something, so I resolved to come back another day and pray again. (I was planning to anyway, but this made it even more of a necessity.) A day or two later I went back by myself and this time I spent time looking around and even browsed through the library. I sat in the large room reading for about an hour listening to the prayers and songs of the rabbis. I went back to about the same spot I prayed at before. After I prayed I stepped back, and AGAIN my yarmulke fell off! I was concentrating hard to make sure it didn't fall off, but it fell off anyway. The paper yarmulkes don't have pins or clips, so the only thing holding it down is gravity and the shape of your head and hair. Anyway, I resolved that I would come back the next day, but this time I would buy my own yarmulke.
So the next day I was looking for an appropriate place to buy my yarmulke. I decided that I wanted to buy it in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. So I walked up and down these alleys and found a shop. It was tended by this fellow who looked about 18 years old. It took me forever to choose what kind I wanted because there were so many different kinds. I suddenly realized there might be some sort of tradition as to what kind someone should wear. I was too embarrassed to ask the cashier, so I picked out the nicest looking one. It was navy blue, velvetly in texture, with white loopy stitching around the perimeter.
Anyway, after I picked it out and bought it, the cashier gave me a clip to use with it, but it wasn't a normal bobby pin, it was a tricky bobby pin and I couldn't figure out how to use it with my yarmulke. I asked the cashier and he said, "Oh, Rabbi so-and-so could sure help you." And behind me was this really old and wise looking rabbi. He didn't say a word to me, but he took my yarmulke and clipped it onto my head, and he mumbled something. I like to think he was blessing it, but honestly I don't know what he was saying.
I left the store and went directly to the Wall, which is about a five minute walk. I prayed and my yarmulke didn't fall off! There are a few details to this story that I'm purposefully leaving out--one's personal relationship with God is personal, even though there are generalities that are important to witness to.
Click here to see a LIVE picture of the Wailing Wall. This is one of my favorite places on the Internet. It's also on the Sandalphon Links Page.
And speaking of which, here is a picture of me at the Wailing Wall from my 1997 visit copied from the LIVE Internet link by a friend of mine while I was there visiting. (See the Pilgrimage 97, Part 2 link for more on that.)
Go to: Pilgrimage 97, Part 2
Return to: Sandalphon.Com Home Page
p.s. I didn't take the picture of the Wailing Wall at the top of the page. I found that one on the Internet.