Glimpses of Israel - Walls of Jerusalem

by Joseph Hunting

My first view of the walls that encircle the Old City of Jerusalem was in December 1960. At that time the Jordanians occupied the Old City and as I had 'ISRAEL' stamped on my visa I was denied entry through the Mandelbaum gate. Barbed wire and machine guns on the old battlements ensured there was no trespassing. So I had to content myself with a view of those ancient walls across the no-mans-land of the Hinnom Valley.

Seven years later following the Six Day War the barricades, walls, barbed wire and machine guns were gone and I joined crowds of Israelis, Arabs and tourists that thronged through the gate of Jerusalem. There was one wall that was the cynosure of all eyes. It was the Western Wall.

Nearly two thousand years earlier the Romans had left the western retaining wall of the Temple area standing as the only memorial to the might of Imperial Rome after Jerusalem had been totally destroyed. Today, that Wall is the only link Israel has with the glory that was once Jerusalem.

At that time only short sections of the walls encircling the Old City were safe to climb and walk along. Signs of the ravages of synagogues by the Jordanians were painfully evident.

Everywhere the Israelis were engaged on a massive clean-up programme. Thousands of tons of debris and filth were disposed of as Jerusalem underwent its first face-lift in two thousand years.

My next visit to Jerusalem was four years later. On that occasion the transformation surrounding the walls was a delight to behold. Rubble and debris had been removed and landscaped gardens were taking their place. Floodlighting completed the picture.

The walls of Jerusalem have been torn down and rebuilt many times. One of the most stirring accounts of action at the rebuilding of the walls surrounding the Old City is in the book of Nehemiah. But it is Isaiah who reveals to us the Divine love for them.

"But Zion said, The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yes, they may forget, yet will I not forget you. Behold, I have graven you upon the palms of my hands: your walls are ever before me." (49:14-16).