By Dr Melané van Zyl

In July, I visited Israel for a leadership coaching course. As part of the sightseeing, we saw the wailing wall. It was Sabbath, so we were not allowed to take photos or even write notes to stick on the wall. Lifts, toasters, coffee machines, and cellphones all rest on the Sabbath- this is an interesting story for another time.

I will not rewrite the history of the wailing wall here; there are much better resources like this: What you need to know about the Wailing Wall or Western Wall.

I want to write about my experience with the wall as I visited it to hear from the wall how it deals with the constant wailing and crying.

The atmosphere at the Wall is intensely holy. Everyone is silent, except when talking to the Wall. There is no chit-chat or talking (or even making eye contact) with others. The only sound is the cooing of the doves.

Eventually, I got a space at the Wall. The stone blocks are cold and solid. Protruding out of the wall are tufts of grass and leaves. The cracks between the stone bricks are filled with thousands of folded papers. (These papers are holy and are buried twice yearly on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives).

So, I asked the Wall how it copes with all the wailing and crying, and everyone is sticking their prayers/wishes into it. As a psychiatrist, I identify with the Wall as being on the receiving end of lots of crying and personal “stuff” being pushed onto me.

The answer I got from the Wall is that the only thing it must do is to provide a safe space for people to express their most profound grief. The Wall does not need to do anything more. It does not give advice, nor does it fix any problems. It is a symbol of a listener, available to all, year in and year out, always in the same place and behaving in the same way.
The Wall does not judge. For these things that the Wall offered, people flew thousands of miles to visit it and receive consolation.

I think this is a pretty cool answer! Thank you, Wailing Wall. May you remain standing for many more millennia.



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