Thursday, December 11, 2008


We are used to reading stories of children writing letters to Santa Claus. Usually kindly elves somewhere close to the child step in and help Santa make the tot's Cristmas better than it might have been. Some letters end up at the local post office and others are highjacked to put in the child's "baby book." But today I read, on a website I subscribe to, how letters addressed to God in Jerusalem or Israel are handled.

According to this story, once a year, usually just before Hanukkah and Christmas, a group of Israeli postmen gather boxes full of letters addressed to God and received at the main Post Office in Jerusalem and take them to the famous Western Wall, pictured above. Once there, they carefuly open the envelopes, fold the letters until they are slivers and insert them into the crevices between the stones.

Interestingly, "The majority come from Christians, but a sizeable number come from Jews and even a few from Muslims." They come from dozens of countries, including some like Malaysia and Kuwait, that don't even have diplomatic relations with Israel. But the pleas noted in these letters transcend country politics and are words from the heart of a human being to a God of all living creatures.

Throughout the year, letters to God are placed in a separate Post Office cubbyhole and are treated with respect by the postmen. According to the article, "Like all of the messages placed in the wall's crevices, those addressed to God will eventually be collected by employees of the Western Wall Plaza and buried in the 'Geniza,' a repository for texts considered holy, such as the Torah and prayer books."

I found this story very touching. It is certainly not a Christmas story with particular gifts being the object of the letters, but coming at the holiday season it surely represents a sensitive human approach to what otherwise might have been looked at as merely a bothersome happening at an already fast-paced time of year.

The full story, which is enlightening and worth reading, can be found on the website of the Religion News Service at

Except for the Santa Claus picture at the heading of this article, the other two photos were ones taken when Jerry and I visited Israel in 1980. The middle photo is an overall view of how the Western (or Wailing) Wall appeared at that time, and the picture directly above is of Jerry standing next to the wall. In it you can see just how large those stones are, and you can also see the letters stuck in the crevices of those stones. I have to admit I had a hard time taking this picture; I was very moved by seeing Jerry standing at that sacred place, and tears kept popping out of my eyes, making it very hard to focus my long-lens camera. It was a moment neither of us will ever forget.

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