You shall put these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall tie them for a sign upon your arm, and they shall be as totafot between your eyes. – Deuteronomy 11:18
Today I went to the Western Wall by myself. I have been twice before, but it is hard to get a real sense for such a holy place in large groups. After donning my kipah and descending into the Western Wall Plaza, where men and women are segregated, a man from Texas sort of roped me in, literally and figuratively, asking me if I was Jewish. I told him the slight Jewish lineage and apparently that was good enough. He started to wrap tefillin on my head and arm. Essentially, they are small blocks filled with Torah scrolls connected with kosher leather straps. They are typically worn by members of the Orthodox community, though I saw all types of people wearing it, including a teenager with cut-off jean shorts and another wearing a sleeveless shirt. I didn’t feel out of place at all.
I left the Western Wall by exploring a part of the Old City I have never extensively seen before, the Jewish Quarter. The Jewish Quarter is usually very quiet as there are no major attractions there. I felt incredibly safe walking through the streets, with only the low rustle of children and leaves as my guide. As a primary site of Jewish residence, children and mothers ate in large squares as the setting sun illuminated the soft hills of the city.