Stories in Motion: Returning to the Western Wall

Stories in Motion engages participants with epic pieces of Israel’s history through creative movement and physical expression. As participants bring to life the story of the return to the Western Wall through movement, the eye-witness testimonies leave the page and find resonance in the hearts and minds of the participants.

Curriculum Themes: 

Materials Required: 

Program Duration: 

Physical Space: 

Number of Campers: 

Age of Campers: 

Core Learnings: 

In 1967, Israeli soldiers were the first Jews who succeeded in reaching the Western Wall in decades.
The renewed access to the Western Wall for Jews was of huge religious and political significance.
Many Jews, including the president of Israel, greatly value the ability to access the Western Wall.

Explanation: 

1. Background information about the Western Wall

Share the following information with the group:

When Rome destroyed the Second Temple in 70 C.E., only one outer wall remained standing. The Romans probably would have destroyed that wall as well, but it must have seemed too insignificant to them; it was not even part of the Temple itself, just an outer wall surrounding the Temple Mount. For the Jews, however, this remnant of what was the most sacred building in the Jewish world quickly became the holiest spot in Jewish life. Throughout the centuries Jews from throughout the world made the difficult pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and immediately headed for the Kotel ha-Ma'aravi (the Western Wall) to thank God. The prayers offered at the Kotel were so heartfelt that gentiles began calling the site the “Wailing Wall.” This name never won a wide following among traditional Jews; the term “Wailing Wall” is not used in Hebrew.

The Western Wall was subjected to far worse than semantic indignities. During the more than one thousand years Jerusalem was under Muslim rule, the Arabs often used the Wall as a garbage dump, so as to humiliate the Jews who visited it.

For nineteen years, from 1948 to 1967, the Kotel was under Jordanian rule. Although the Jordanians had signed an armistice agreement in 1949 guaranteeing Jews the right to visit the Wall, not one Israeli Jew was ever permitted to do so.

(www.JewishVirtualLibrary.org)

Tell the group that they will now have the opportunity to learn more about the operation that restored Jewish access to the Western Wall.

2. Studying the Text:

Partner Study/Chavruta:
Divide participants into pairs and have them read the text “Reclaiming the Western Wall (1967).” Each pair receives three different colored highlighters and uses different markers to highlight characters, actions, and emotions respectively.

Group Discussion: Participants analyze and reflect upon the story as a group.

Guiding Questions:
*What do you think it was like for the soldiers who participated in this mission?
*What do you think it was like for Israelis at that time to hear the news?
*What do you think of the decision of the president and the commanders to risk their lives to reach the Western Wall? Do you think a religious site is something worth risking one’s life for?

3. Dancing the Text

Role Assignment:  Facilitator leads the group in creating a list of the characters in the story, along with their actions and emotions (a sample list is provided in the supporting documents). Characters can be human as well as inanimate objects. Participants choose characters from the story such that each participant has at least one role. They are asked to begin creating movements that express their character’s actions and emotions. 

Costuming: Participants create costumes for themselves from white bed sheets or other material scraps. Facilitator provides markers, scissors, and safety pins along with the material.

Dance Creation: After creating movements for their particular role and getting into costume, participants dance their movements as a group while the facilitator reads the text. This is repeated two or three times in order to help the movements coalesce into a cohesive dance. Then the narration ceases and the dance is put to music with the story being told without words. 

Dance Performance: Have the participants dance their piece one final time, but this time instead of setting it to music, play the attached youtube video as they are dancing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l17p0fTNvf0.
They may need to repeat the dance a few times in order to fill the time of the entire video (their movements do not need to match up with what is happening in the video, but they may do so if they like). 
[The video is in Hebrew, but one does not need to understand the words to discern what is happening.]
 

Variations: 

Larger groups: In order to accommodate larger groups, multiple people can dance each role and choreograph their movements together. 

Younger Participants: Facilitator may want to allow participants an opportunity to share an experience they had visiting the Western Wall.  Facilitator should also be prepared to do, if s/he has been there.

Older participants: With a group of older participants, facilitator may want to discuss the decisions that came to pass after the return to the Western Wall. 

Some questions for discussion:

• Who should decide how the Western Wall should function today?

• Should the Western Wall be structured such that there is a separation between men and women?  Why or why not? 

• Should decisions about how the Western Wall is run be based on the goal of including as many people as possible?  If not, what should be the most important goal?

• What vision of the Western Wall in the future do you think the soldiers had in the moment when they saw it for the first time? 

Background Cards: 

Supporting Materials: 

Attribution: 

Dalia Davis