Since I announced the special prayer on the "ENGAGE - For a Secure Israel" blog, and since I live in Jerusalem, I went to the special prayer that was held at the kotel on Thursday.
It is always a special feeling to go to the Old City. Jerusalem, even without the Old City, is very special. It is just teaming with synagogues and Batei Midrash. Every neighborhood has its own special personality. But the Old City is in an entirely different league. It is the diamond in the crown. Here we are close to the Temple Mount, where the First Temple and Second Temples stood and where the Third Temple will be built(may we all merit to witness this).
I'm walked fast, passing tourists and students, because I don't want to miss the prayer that was called for 5:30 PM. I entered Jaffa Gate and kissing the Mezzuzah that is fastened to it (Rashi on Deuteronomy 6:9 mentions that the gates of cities are also required to have mezzuzot). As I passed the Arab owned shops I noticed that some of them were selling Judaica: Shofars, Kipot, even Kiddush Cups. They may not like the Yahud but they sure like his money! On Shalshelet Street if I had continued walking straight I would have arrived at one of the gates of the Temple Mount. Instead I turned right and passed the security checkpoint located at the entrance to the Western Wall Plaza. I as well as my bag had to pass through a metal detector. We passed the test!
Now I went down the stairs to the Kotel. I look at the time on my cellphone (who needs a watch?): 5:20, I'm ten minutes early. There are plenty of people at the Kotel, mostly of the black-frocked-ultra-orthodox persuasion who had come to pray the special prayers of Yom Kippur Katan (or as they say, "Yoim Kipper Koton"). I didn't see too many "settler" types and I was wondering if I had made a mistake or if the prayer had been called off.
I found a chair and started to say Tehilim. This is always a worthwhile activity, and near the Temple Mount King David's Psalm's seem to be especially meaningful. I look up to make sure that there aren't any pigeons sitting on the ledge above me. I was afraid that they would give me an unwanted "souvenir" of my visit to the Western Wall. Once I thought that the presence of pigeons and other feathered friends at the kotel added a nice, pastoral touch to the place. I've since changed my mind. I thought about the "kale orev" that was on the roof of the Beit HaMikdash in order to keep the birds away, and I wished that there was some kind of similar device here.
5:30 arrived and still no sign of the promised mass organized prayer, except for a microphone. Someone who wanted to start his own minyan shouted "Mincheh, Yoim Kipper Koton." I considered joining his minyan but I decided that I came here for a particular purpose, and I should wait and continue saying tehilim. Twenty years in Israel, and I still show up on time. What an American! What a frier (sucker in Israeli slang)!
5:50 rolls around. With all due respect to my settler friends, and they do have my respect, I decided to find a minyan for Minchah (with or without the additions of Yom Kippur Katan) and to head home. That did not take too long and I found a Sefardic Minyan (without Yom Kippur Katan) and dovenned with them.
As the prayer service concluded (about 6:10) the special minyan finally started. They distributed a page with the special prayers that were to be said. The prayers were said with great feeling and devotion, with a mix of Ashkenazic and Sephardic melodies. One of the highlights was the sounding of two silver trumpets that Rabbi Yisrael Ariel brought from The Temple Institute. This is accordance with what is written in the Torah (Numbers 10:9) and the Rambam (Laws of fasts Ch. 1). At about 6:55 the special minyan started the regular Minchah prayers which I had already said so I left.
I have to break my nasty habit of showing up on time!