It was my second time visiting the Kotel. I had felt a deep connection when I first visited in 2014 during the Israeli-Gaza War. This second time, I also felt connected, but in a different way.
After I inserted the note I had written for myself, I began to feel that my reason for being there was not for me, but for the six million voices silenced when they were murdered in the Shoah. I touched my necklace that bore the Sh’ma, and felt that I was here for those six million who were never able to know of or see the state of Israel and visit the Western Wall. It was the culmination of my decision to carry on their legacies, as I had decided when I signed up for this trip.
After I prayed for them at the main part of the wall, I was able to visit the newly announced pluralistic section that allows men and women to visit the Wall together. As a self-proclaimed feminist Jew, I was excited to see a section that women were finally able to pray as they please, with the ability to wear tallit and read the Torah. It was amazing to see a bar mitzvah taking place at the wall, led by a female rabbi, where the entire family was able to be present and celebrate together. Seeing this family rejoice while this boy fulfilled such an important life cycle event was so powerful just one week after our journey in Poland, two days after yom hazikaron, and one day after yom haatzmaut.
The Western Wall is a universal symbol for tenacity, as the wall held even as all other structures crumbled. Such is the story of the Jewish people – amid all struggles, when tragedy occurs (as it often seems to), we endure. More than 70 years after the Shoah ended, here stands this boy becoming a man, celebrating with his Jewish family in front of this Wall, this symbol of tenacity.
-Hannah Kaplan, Indian Hill High School