The Wailing or Western Wall in Jerusalem is the holiest place in the Jewish religion. It is supposedly the sole remaining portion of the First Temple. Prayers offered near to it (or, especially, touching it) are said to be more easily heard by God. Above the wall, on top of Temple Mount, the third and fourth holiest places in Islam are located: the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Dome of the Rock contains the rock upon which Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son. It is also the place from which Mohammad ascended to heaven on his Night Journey.
Control and/or provisions to share these locations are at the crux of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but rarely make the list of discussion topics during peace talks, largely because of the extreme religious sensitivities involved.
Christianity’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Via Dolorosa are not far away, either — both within the Old City Walls. And the Crusaders once occupied the Temple Mount, making the city a well-known confluence for all three Monotheistic religions.
What might not be well known is that the Western Wall itself is divided into several distinct layers and sections. First, male and female prayer areas are separate and distinct, with women crowded into a disproportionately smaller area at the right of the wall. Then, the stonework of the wall itself displays visibly differing ages and styles of workmanship. Only the lowest few tiers of stone are from the First Temple. The next few similar but more roughly-hewn layers date from King Herod’s reconstruction of the Temple (a period known as the Second Temple). And, most interesting to me — and maybe closet to fitting with my theme of Not Quite Right — is the topmost section of the wall. Built by the Ottomans (under the direction of Sir Moses Montefiore), its ostensible purpose was “for shade and protection from the rain for all who come to pray by the holy remnant of our Temple.” However, its more likely purpose was to prevent Muslims who attended Friday prayers in the Al-Aqsa mosque above from tossing stones and other items on Jewish penitents at the base of the wall below!
In any case, a good look at the Wailing/Western Wall provides a tense snapshot of the forces that currently divide people in the Middle East. It is that division, rather than symbols like walls or churches or mosques, which is truly Not Quite Right.