You pass through the gates of the old town, pass through the souk and dozens of small lanes and then, all the sudden, you get to see it, and you get a shiver of excitement, a frisson : The Western Wall (Mur des lamentations) is here.
Built 2000 years ago, it was merely a retaining wall supporting the outer portion of the Temple Mount. But following the destruction of the Temple in 70 (by Titus and Vespasien, Roman emperors), Jews were sent to exile and the precise location of the Temple was lost. Upon their return, they avoided the Temple Mount, fearing that they might step on the Holy of Holies, the ancient inner sanctum of the Temple. Instead, this wall became a place of pilgrimage…
Behind, the Dome of the Rock. It covers a slab of stone sacred to both the Muslim and Jewish faiths. According to Jewish tradition, it was here that Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son and from which, according to Islamic tradition, the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. The mosque was built in in 688 to compete with the imposing Christian Church of the Holy Sepulcher…
In 1948, the Jews lost access to the Wall when the Old City was taken by the Jordanians and the population of the Jewish Quarter was expelled. The Israeli Army fought their way directly to the Wall during the Six Day War in 1967.
Hasidic Judaism is a branch of Orthodox Judaism that promotes spirituality through the popularization and internalization of Jewish mysticism as the fundamental aspect of the faith (for what it means).
Above, a Lubavitch, recognizable by his peculiar hat. It is one of the hassidic currents. The movement was born in the 18th century in Lyubavichi, in the Smolensk Oblast, a Russian region in between Minsk and Moscow.
The strings you see under their jackets are called tzitzit in English, tsilsit in French. Those specially knotted ritual fringes worn by observant Jews are attached to the four corners of the tallit (prayer shawl).
It comes from this Torah sentence : “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, that they shall make themselves fringes on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and they shall put on the corner fringe a blue thread.”
Payot in Hebrew, sidelocks in English, Paillotes in French. This is the name of orthodox Jews and rabbis strands of hair. The Torah says, “You shall not round off the Pe’at of your head”. The word Pe’at was taken to mean the hair in front of the ears extending to beneath the cheekbone, on a level with the nose.
Many Hasidic and Yemenite Jews let their sidelocks grow particularly long. Even among Jewish groups in which the men do not wear noticeable payot, often the young boys do wear them until around the age of Bar Mitzvah.