Day 4: Why Does Jerusalem Make Us Cry?

The Heritage Group Arrives in Jerusalem

Brett Fishberg in Israel for the first time, commented on our arrival in Jerusalem yesterday: “I was surprised, I just didn’t think I’d get this emotional”.

Why does coming to Jerusalem for the first time, and specifically praying at the Western Wall evoke such powerful feelings and emotions?

There is of course no one reason, and the experience is always a unique and personal one. For some the emotion comes from the knowledge that one is standing in the closest proximity to where the Temple of old once stood. For others, the impact of seeing so many being outwardly, openly and proudly Jewish viscerally connects them to Am Yisrael – to the nation of Israel. They feel part of a people and become overwhelmed with pride, comfort, and a sense of belonging. Some cry when they internalize that for the first time in modern history, we are able to visit our beloved Jerusalem, and recognize in their core the importance of the State of Israel. This trip to the Kotel (Western Wall) I realized one more potential reason some become so emotional. As Michelle, another of our trip participants shared, for those who struggle with God and prayer, seeing so many other people opening up and surrendering to something greater, somehow gives permission to be more open and vulnerable to a relationship with God.

Another participant from our trip was walking away from the Kotel crying. When asked about her experience she answered: “I just had so much to say to God”. I realized she probably feels that way because admittedly she doesn’t pray regularly but the holiness of the place coupled with seeing so many others pouring out their heart, makes it that much easier. It was as if she gave herself permission to have that relationship with God for the first time in a long time – as if she hadn’t seen a loved one for many years – hadn’t visited, hadn’t called. Then upon reaching the Kotel, it was like she reunited with her loved one, got a hug and just let go of all she had been holding in. The physical proximity to such a holy place and all the others around allowed her to experience that closeness.

The challenge is maintaining some semblance of that feeling when not in Jerusalem, when not at a place as holy as the Kotel. By definition it can’t be the same because God’s presence, or “Shechinah,” is truly strongest there. But perhaps having this experience of spiritual catharsis in Jerusalem can help us keep the channels open for greater communication between ourselves and the Almighty, on a more regular basis.


Name: Brett Fishberg

Profession: IT Tech Sales

# trips to Israel (including this): 1!!!

Jewish Background/ affiliation: Grew up a Reform Jew who belonged to a Conservative Synagogue in California. Now lives in NY and only goes to services for High Holidays.   

In his words…

How did you get on this trip?  My brother who lives in NY but is not affiliated with MJE forwarded me the link about the Israel trip and it just so happened to fit in my schedule for work.  

What are your brief reflections on the day (or the trip overall)?  Being that this is my first trip to Israel I didn’t know exactly what to expect. Everyone told me that I would have that “Aww Haww” moment and for me it was our first trip to Jerusalem.  Rabbi Ezra Cohen, Rabbi Mark Wildes, and my roommate Rich started playing the song Jerusalem of Gold (‘Yerushalayim Shel Zachav’) as we approached the Overlook of Jerusalem and at that moment I understood what everyone had been telling me. I instantly felt that I belonged and a sense of pride for my religion came over me. That feeling was even intensified later that night when I visited the Western Wall for the first time.  As the MJE group started praying and inserting their personal notes and messages into the crevices of the wall I began to get a warm feeling and real sense that I was finally home. Overall, I have had an amazing experience with MJE filled with new friends and memories that I will never forget. Thank you very much for the opportunity and new appreciation for my religion and life. 

Fun fact about yourself…
Even though I know I can’t sing I still find myself singing in the shower.

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