What an eventful day! I started off early when I was woken by the call to prayer at 3:00 a.m. I still think it is beautiful (see my post "Joy in the Journey"), but I'll keep you updated on that. Ramadan still has a ways to go and 3:00 is pretty early...A woman walking in the Muslim Quarter.
After class we had a free afternoon. I met Malek, the Center secretary, who is very good friends with Nanny. She was so sweet to me and aksed me to come up to the seventh floor and visit her often. Friday is an interesting day to go into the Old City because everyone is getting ready for Sabbath which they hold on Saturday. The center doesn't allow us to enter the city until 3:00 in the afternoon those days because there are lots of preachers in the streets that sometimes cause rioting. The energy is very high. At three o'clock I hiked into the West Wall with friends. Previously called the "Wailing Wall", this is a very sacred place for the Jews since it is the last standing remains of the Jerusalem temple. Jews try to make the pilgrimage to the West Wall at least once in their lives. There is gender separation with the women on one side and the men on the other. The cracks in the stone are all filled with little slips of paper, upon which are written the names of sick loved ones and petitions to the Lord. It was too crowded to get up the front ourselves, so we just watched respectively. I know we will be going back soon and I have plans to slip some prayers in then. The Jewish women covered their heads and read out of prayer books under their breath. They would bow over and over into the wall, or their prayer books, in a mesmerizing, rocking motion. The devotion I witnessed there was truly touching and I did indeed feel the peace of the Spirit in that place where so many have plead with the Lord and sacrificed to obey His words. We retreated from the Wall backwards as to not show disrespect by turning our backs on it.
As we returned North, across the city, we ran into some major crowds. It was not uncomfortable until many of the women began to push past us in a flustered manner, almost frantically scurrying out from the city center. The atmosphere changed and it felt like there was trouble in the air. My first thought was to follow the women and the children: if anything was amiss, they would know it and they would be the first ones to get away from it. We linked arms and followed the crowd of women at a clippy pace. It was a relief when we broke out of the city at Damascus Gate safe and sound! We must have looked turned-about because a kind looking, older man asked us if we were Mormon. We of course affirmed his suspicion and he asked if he could help us find our way. We were planning on visiting Aladdin, the money changer who works with BYU students. The old man began to laugh and exclaimed, "I am he!" We pulled out the cheesy business card that were we had his address, etc. and sure enough, it was his picture on the card. He has a warm composure and light in his eyes. He guided us out to his little store during which he said things like, "You can't help being watched by these bad men. You are all beauties and you are light, " and "I love the Mormons and they love me! You will see." He told us that it was stupid for us to be in East Jerusalem on Sabbath Eve, but he was glad that we went. "You have to have the Spirit of Adventure to gain the good experiences!" He was very excited that I will be learning Arabic and said I could come practice on him anytime. His sons, both of them grown and married, were equally nice. I didn't have my checkbook with me, so I will have to go back, but that is a visit that I am looking forward to!
I am safe and sound back at the center.
Notice: two more women reflected in the mirror
in the lower left-hand corner.