This morning, I visited the Wall, an emotional place regardless of your religious upbringing.
There was a bar mitzvah taking place. A young man was surrounded by his male relatives as they sang and chanted together. The young man’s female relatives stood on chairs along the women’s side and leaned over the wall to observe.
After spending some time deep in thought and shoving in the obligatory note to God (and noticing how many earlier notes lay on the ground), I asked for directions to the Robinson Arch.
I have written many articles on this place that has been set aside for egalitarian prayer. I wanted to see for myself if it was really so far removed from Wall where men and women pray separately. Would I have the same feeling as if I was praying with the larger Jewish community?
The Robinson Arch is a remnant of the Second Temple to the south of the place where everyone goes to pray. I was told it was in a very secluded place, two stories below the main area.
I asked several security people and those who gather at the Wall to make sure everyone heads to the proper area. Most claimed ignorance, but a few pointed me in the same basic direction. I had to walk out the exit, leave the Wall behind me, and turn to the right.
Happily, soon I saw signs to the Arch. In large letters, the sign read Jerusalem Archeological Park. In smaller letters on the second line, it read Western Wall Excavations. Finally, on the third and final line, the sign pointed the way to the Robinson Arch and Hulda Gates.
I followed the sign, wondering if I would have to walk through all the tunnels or some large park before finally arriving at the Robinson Arch and the Hulda Gates. Those gates are at the Southern Wall and abut are blocked.
A short walk later, I was at the ticket window for the Archeological Park. When I explained I merely wanted to pray at the Robinson Arch, the woman said fine, but you still have to pay and go through the park. I said surely there is a way to just visit the arch, and she said I could go wherever I wanted but I still had to purchase a ticket.
Now, I have heard many complaints about the isolation of praying at Robinson Arch but no one had ever expressed outrage about having to pay to pray. I am sure there is another way, but even though I asked a few more police or soldiers, I never found it.
I decided not to buy a ticket since I was warned quite severely that this being a Friday in Ramadan, it would be best not to be at the Wall in the afternoon. Though it was only about 10 a.m. by this time, I was concerned I would end up walking through the park, and then deciding to learn all about it, thereby staying way too long.
I had my special moment at the Wall but will always continue to wonder about the Robinson Arch.