Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Via Strollerosa

On Good Friday, devout Christians (and tourists*, and the paparazzi), create a procession or pilgrimage through the Via Dolorosa, following the path that Christ walked on the way to his crucifixion and ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. But you probably knew that.

What you might not have realized is that on Jewish festivals and holy days, pious Jews have to contend with the Via Strollerosa in order to reach the Kotel (the Western Wall). One can't just meander up to the Kotel and begin to pray. There are security gates, with soldiers and guards and metal detectors. But even before that, there are steps, many steps, especially if one is approaching the Kotel from the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. And remember, these people have already walked a substantial distance from their homes to reach the Old City and will return on foot.

On the last day of Passover, religious Jews of all sartorial persuasions (some in stripes, most in solids; a group of black hatted young men wore wide, bright pink neckties, not a typical sight!) were hurrying to the Kotel. Entire families came, many with a stroller seating one or two young children. If the family was of average size (say, four kids), a parent and the older siblings (who might be just four or five) would lift the stroller up and hand carry it all the way down the many, many steps, much as courtiers would have transported a king or queen. There were also unaccompanied moms or dads, perhaps catching up with the rest of their families. Some of them bumpity-bumped and banged the stroller all the way down the stairs, giving their babies a joint jangling ride.

I didn't stick around long enough to watch them make the return schlep up all the steps of Via Strollerosa.

*I was amongst the hordes who, inadvertently, became part of the Good Friday pilgrimage. To be posted at a future date.

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