People from all over the world know about me, and they know that they’ll find me by the Oldest Wall in the world”. Those were the words of Rami, the owner of the Makolet (corner store), who’s shop lies just opposite the Broad Wall in the Old City, Jerusalem. Truth be told, this wall is not the oldest wall in the world, but when you’re counting Very Old Walls, this one definitely ranks up there with the best of them.
The story of the Broad Wall is a fantastic one. King Hezekiah was the ruler of the Judean Kingdom in 701 BC. By this time the Assyrian neighbors had invaded the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and dispersed its citizens among the nations. (To this day, these exiled Jews are called the Ten Lost Tribes, most of whom never returned to their land or their people.) In this year Sennacherib ruler of Assyria threatened to invade and overcome Jerusalem. King Hezekiah decided to fortify Jerusalem by building, among other defenses, an extremely thick wall, which when it was complete was almost 8m thick and 8m high.
Sennacherib laid siege on Jerusalem and called to Hezekiah to surrender. King Hezekiah of Judea refused, and while the massively fortified Assyrian forces camped outside Jerusalem, waiting for orders to attack, a most surprising thing happened. A great epidemic hit the ranks, and many Assyrian soldiers died or fled. Sennacherib gave up and retreated. Jerusalem was saved by a miracle. This is all chronicled in the book of Kings.
Now, let’s skip more than 2500 years to 1967. The descendants of King Hezekiah’s Jewish nation ultimately experienced destruction of their Temple, exile, crusade, progrom and holocaust. Yet despite this all, in one of the greatest ironies of the chronicles of mankind, this people stubbornly clung to their dreams to return to their land. After 2000 years of exile, they finally returned to their land which they revived and rebuilt. Buried under the battlefields of the Old City, Israeli archeologists discovered remnants of Hezekiah’s broad wall. New residences were built around it, but much of it was protected and marked so the stones could tell visiting Jews and Israelis the story of their ancestor King Hezekiah of Judeah who stubbornly refused to surrender his Kingdom, land or people to an invading army, and who put prepared his defenses, put his faith in God, and who was saved by a miracle.
So back to Rami, from the Makolet. Many of my Jerusalem Scavenger Hunt participants told me that they had visited the Makolet Man by the Broad Wall, and that he has a fantastic story to tell, so I decided to introduce myself to Rami and to hear the story myself. I found Rami to be soft spoken, sincere and refined. He told me that his children had left Israel to make their home in the USA, and when he visited them he was saddened by some of the people that he met whose lives seemed to revolve around money and showing it off. He said “Look around at my shop – look at all this beautiful fruit” (and yes, it really was shiny, bright and beautiful), “this is all fruit grown in the land of Israel. Look at my wines; they are also all produced here in our land. Sure I can make more money selling a wider range of produce, but my shop stands here, next to the Broad Wall and bears testimony to the words of the Bible, that Israel is a ‘land flowing with milk and honey’, a land blessed by God”.
Rami offered me a cup of homemade juice – orange or pomegranate. I hesitated to take pomegranate, knowing that we have reached the end of the season, but I succumbed to temptation – and I did not regret it! The rich, red juice was smooth, sweet and tangy – the perfect cup of Pomegranate juice – one of the seven species through which Land of Israel is glorified.
It was then that Rami then told me that people from all over the world stop by his Makolet, and it is easy to find him, he’s by the Oldest Wall in the world. Oldest – not quite – but timeless absolutely! Rami, his makolet, which with every fruit and bottle of wine praises the virtues of our land, and the Broad Wall at whose feet they stand, tell the tale of an ancient and God blessed land and people, that defies invaders, destructions and exiles, whose beliefs and values are timeless and unchanging!
When you’re next in town, I highly recommend that you pop into say hi to Rami, by the Oldest Wall in the world!