Western Wall (aka the Kotel) which is regarded as Judaism's holiest place knows that it is almost always a bustling sea of humanity full of all kinds of noise.
The sounds of the muezzin from the Dome of the Rock/Al-Aqsa complex will, on occasion, also punctuate the air.
So, when my friend Jeremy (no, not talking about myself) Lustman suggested that we get up at 5am to go to the early morning service on Friday for a different type of spiritual experience, I was up for it (literally and figuratively).
The purpose of this service is to say the morning prayer at the exact first possible moment. The particular prayer is a silent meditation and can be said roughly at the morning's first light.
As we arrived, there were probably 150+ men praying in groups of 10-15. There was a din of noise as each group moved through the introductory prayers at their own pace.
However, when the moment arrived, the entire place fell silent. All we heard was chirping of the birds.
Utter and complete silence otherwise.
It was surreal and powerful. To be in the holiest place and have total quiet.
If you ever get the chance, you should go.
On our way out of Jerusalem, we stopped at the Mahane Yehuda (central market). Another place that is usually chock full of people, noise, and smells.
Since it was so early, we were able to experience the market coming to life. Vendors setting up their stalls and being able to walk unimpeded, appreciating the world of commerce coming to life, much as we had so appreciated the spiritual world awakening only moments before.
That afternoon, we experienced another side of humankind's spiritual existence.
We learned on Thursday night that the uncle of a close friend of ours was to be buried in Israel (after flying from the US) on Friday afternoon at 2pm.
Due to flight delays, the funeral didn't begin until close to 4 and with the arrival of the Sabbath imminent, there wasn't much time for a long ceremony.
In fact, it was short. Very short. And informal. Some were wearing jeans and t-shirts.
But, as opposed to some American funerals, there was an authenticity to it due to its fast pace and, more interestingly, the fact that people aren't buried in coffins. They are buried wrapped in a simple white shroud, an act which I think makes the process even more real due to its rawness.
Obviously, when you attend a funeral, you can't help but think about mortality and ask yourself questions about how to make the time you have on earth as rich as possible.
Thanks to Jeremy Lustman, I had a day I won't soon forget and may never experience again.