My mother and I spent a day in New York City before we left for Jerusalem. We walked down 5th avenue, visited the tree at Rockefeller, and watched the light show. The difference between the way of life in New York City and the way of life in Jerusalem provided a stark contrast that gripped me and did not let me go. We spent time in the heart of materialistic culture then landed in the heart of a culture focused upon the immaterial. A culture of lights that works tirelessly to entice us to consume things we do not need. Compared to a culture that invites us to discover what lies behind their walls of limestone.
We walked on the sidewalk as mobs of people went from window to window. Store to store. You can honestly feel the anxieties of the American people as they shop for the next object that promises a more convenient life. More things, less struggles. Less struggles, more happiness. The promise of materialism. However, what you see is what you get. Nothing more.
The things they sell us satisfy us for those few moments after we buy them. We settle for the surface level. We live in the honeymoon phase as long as possible. Then the reality of our desires comes out. Our want for something substantial comes alive, but we are left disappointed. We got what we saw, but we want what we can’t see. This is the difference between the two ways of life I experienced. NYC and Jerusalem. 5th Avenue and the Western Wall. Two sites people from all over the world and walks of life come to visit. Each site offering something very different than the other.
The site of the Western Wall carried a tangible sacredness in its atmosphere. A place of substantial magnitude. Where pilgrims come to visit the sign. The material reality of the wall, but what you see is not what you get. A material sign that points to a reality beyond its limits. Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Children and grandfathers. People’s heads pressed against the wall weeping. Wrinkled hands placing slips of paper in the cracks. Songs of ancient hymns in the air. People focused upon a reality they cannot see. Something deeper and more substantial.