Smile


If I were God, I would be very curious to read each and every note addressed to me and stuck into the Western Wall in Jerusalem. They say so much, about the person who wrote it and about their time.

People share their sorrows and joy, their love, their intimate problems at a place where their heart suddenly starts to leap. A historical and mysterious magnet, the wall draws people no matter what their religion, education, age or race. After all, the desire to get in touch with the creator, or with your personal God, is a matter of hope, not faith.

Sabbath, early Saturday: As I face the wall, I note that tourists are forbidden to take pictures or to write prayers out of respect for the Jewish community.

The sun blinds the viewer and washes pale the colours. The cracks and hollows between the white rocks of the Western Wall are stitched together with pieces of paper, squeezed and stuck in wherever people can reach. They stream toward the wall, divide into separate sections for men and women, then rest their foreheads on the silent rocks, strike them gently and pray for love, for happiness, prosperity, health, perhaps for peace. I hope that they remember to breathe as time stops. And starts again.

If I were God, I would know that I can’t help everyone. People are too different. Humanity is too complicated. Its aspirations are contradictory or even mutually exclusive. There are loving hearts, desperate souls and thirsty minds. Some struggle for peace. Some hate to struggle. Some just want to make more money by selling weapons. There are those who sell oil and others who promote alternative energy sources. Everybody hopes that they deserve divine help.

As I walked off into the Muslim quarter, I re-entered a normal, busy Saturday. In the market, rank after rank of stalls offered frozen fish fillets, meat, silver, CDs, fruit, shawls, pottery.

“Smile, just smile,” a street vendor suddenly told me, apropos of nothing.

Perhaps that’s what God would say, if he were here to watch over us.

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