What I Learned This Week Visiting The Two Most Famous Walls In The World
This past week I had the chance to fly to Israel to visit Jerusalem. I also happened to fly through Germany on my way there giving me the unique opportunity to visit 2 of the 3 most famous walls in the world in a 72 hour span. The Western Wall in the Old City Jerusalem and The Berlin Wall or what is left of it. (The Great Wall of China being the other most famous wall. By the way, did you know over 1 million people died building that thing? Crazy!)
I couldn’t help but notice the stark contrast between the walls and what they represent. I’ll start with a quick history:
The Western Wall - Jerusalem
This is the single most holy place in the world to the Jewish religion. It is the only original remaining portion of wall from the great temple that Herod had built starting around 19 BC. This temple was a larger version of the original temple King Solomon had built on the same site. This is considered the most holy place because it was built on the Temple Mount, the holiest of places for the Jews to worship and pray.
The Berlin Wall - Berlin Germany
After the allied powers won World War II they ultimately decided to divide control of Germany into 4 sectors, one for each country. Ultimately the 3 western allies United States, England, and France all decided to consolidate into one side, Western Germany and the Soviet Union controlled the other side, Eastern Germany. Similar to what we see today in North Korea and South Korea, the side with a free economy started thriving while the communist controlled East Germany fell on hard economic times. Eventually to prevent their citizens from leaving, (over 1/6 of East Germany had fled to the west by 1961) the Soviet Union decided to build a wall that prevented their citizens from leaving. The wall literally went up over night, separating families and communities.
Today in 2019, the argument rages over whether or not the United States needs a wall to protect its citizens and stop the illegal movement of drugs and human trafficking. This article doesn’t have a good answer. I do have a little expertise tho as I literally lived on the border for 17 months in 2001-2002 as a missionary for my church. Look up Valle Hermoso and Rio Bravo on a map and you will see that I was literally feet away from the United States yet I couldn’t have felt further away.
Mission rules didn’t allow for me to leave my area and so occasionally I would look on the other side of the border thinking about running across for a quick favorite meal or just a sense of comfort from my previously known luxuries of the United States. Carpet and grass both seemed to always come to my mind!
Living on the Mexican side of the border, I met best friends and people I genuinely loved that were working all week in a factory and making $40 per week. I was once teaching a 65 year old lady about my church, preparing her for a baptism, only to find out a week before that she had fled Mexico and literally swam across the river in hopes of a better life. My heart hurt for these people and I understood why they longed for the other side.
Fast forward 15 years and I got the chance to return to Mexico working side by side with the Mexican government as an undercover operative working with Operation Underground Railroad. I saw the other side of the border issue as I was able to be a part of 7 different sting operations in Mexico where we helped rescue over 100 underage girls as young as 14 years old. I remember one young girl in Baja California that was 16 years old. She had been kidnapped from San Diego and smuggled across the border. She was in the control of some terrible men that were using her over and over as a sex object in an underground sex trafficking operation.
I sat next to her in a public restaurant as our undercover team played the part in order to set up the sting. I had to get up and leave the table 3 times to keep myself from blowing cover cause all I wanted to do was hug this little girl and destroy these terrible men.
The traffickers mocked the United States border and told us at the table how easily they could bring us 100’s of young American girls as long as we were willing to pay. Ultimately they were taken down in a massive sting that resulted in the rescue of over 25 girls and the arrests of 4 awful, terrible men. But the way they laughed about the border has always stuck with me, it was scary.
So yes, I do consider myself valid in my opinion of walls when referring to the southern border. I wish everyone could have the freedoms we take for granted here in the US. I wish I could extend the border to take in every disadvantaged child and every impoverished soul. But one thing I learned visiting these 2 very different walls is this, the world needs America, the world needs her at her strongest and the world needs her to keep her identity as a protector of democracy. I really don’t know if this means we need a full wall or not? I know we need something to prevent these men from smuggling children out and drugs in. I know that we are stronger as a nation and able to truly effect change when we take care of ourselves first. And when America is great, the world is a better place. Despite what you might hear on the news, there’s never been more peace around the globe than we are experiencing right now. This is largely due to the spread of democracy and the ability of the United States to lead from the front.
The Berlin Wall was a daily reminder to citizens of Germany that they had been stripped of their most precious of all gifts, their freedom. So sought after that close to 140 citizens were killed simply for trying to cross that wall, to cross back into their own country!
There is a memorial in Berlin about 200 feet from the Brandenburg Gate commemorating the famous speech given by American president Ronald Reagan when he challenged the Soviet Union leader Michel Gorbachev to “Open this Gate! Tear down this wall!” He did so from a position of power, he did so as a light to the world and a liberator of people. Two years later the wall fell and freedom won.
Anytime I travel to a new country I try and study a little about the country so that I can better understand the culture and what I am experiencing. Jerusalem was a crazy amount of information to take in and minus going there I really don’t see how you could fully understand the situation in the “Holy City.”
Three different major religions and 60% of the earths population believe it to be the center of their region. Christians, Jews, and Muslims all co-existing and trying to keep peace in one of the most hostile areas in the world. The city is broken up into 4 quarters, one for each major religion and another occupied by the Armenians. Walking the streets of Jerusalem, taking in all the smells and sounds, I felt love and respect winning in the moment. I walked the Muslim quarter which ironically contains most of the sacred places from Christ’s time in the city. We had lunch there and broke bread or pitas and hummus mostly. I saw true devotion to God from Jewish men that took hours explaining to us the sacredness of the Western Wall and all its meaning.
I think the lesson I learned is this; to quit fighting with other people and try to lean into them instead. Try to understand why they are passionate about the subject of wanting a wall or not before you dive into all the reasons they are wrong. Maybe they sat with a young mother making $40/week or maybe they sat with a young girl that was 14 years old. Quit being afraid to listen to others, it’s ok to try and understand without needing to change anything else or anybody else’s opinion. Today I feel a little more love for my Jewish brothers and my Muslim friends. I am a little more grateful for the United States and how it liberated an enemy that was hell bent on destroying it just 50 years before. I hate that people are trying to destroy the country from the inside and I know communicating is how we defeat that enemy. Remember that the media makes money by keeping you interested in watching. We watch conflict. Instead of turning on CNN or FoxNews to validate your point, go have a conversation with someone you disagree with but truly seek to learn and understand. Cause if seeing these 2 walls taught me anything, it taught me this; we all desire freedom and the ability to love God and our fellow man.