There's always a lot of interesting stuff going on back there - wedding parties from South Africa, Birthright groups, Bar Mitzvah groups from Argentina, and last week, it was the turn of a bunch of uber-secular Israel teenagers, who have started showing up on Friday nights on a fairly regular basis.
I think there's some new organisation shlepping all these kids to Jerusalem for 'The Wall Experience' from Haifa, and Hod HaSharon, and who knows where else. So anyway, like you'd expect, these secular teenagers dig the Kotel scene for about five minutes, and then get really bored and hang out at the back of the Plaza, waiting for their guide to show up and shlep them somewhere else.
While they're waiting, they joke around, dance a bit, play 'slapping' games - the usual stuff. This week, I was watching a crowd of teens doing all of the above when one really caught my eye: he was a very good-looking teen, very friendly, very outgoing. Just one problem: he had massive holes in his ears, where his earlobes should be.
Eeuwwwww! Yuk! What's with that?
I couldn't take my eyes off his 'gauges', as I've learned these massive ear-hole making things are called, and in my heart I grieved for this kid, and his mother.
I mean, she can't have liked it when her son showed up looking like a bad Salvador Dali painting.
The problem I have with gauges, similar to the problem I have with tattoos, is that I just can't believe that people want to permanently mutilate themselves. I mean, it sounds cool when you're 16, but I'm willing to bet a lot of money that when that kid is 30 and trying to get a job, the gauges are not going to be top of his list of the 'best decisions I ever made'.
How can someone decide that they're ALWAYS going to want big holes in their ears? Or a big tattoo of Elvis on their bicep? It seems to be an act of quiet, desperate, stagnation.
And nothing kills the spirit faster than desperation and stagnation.
Sure, I know that's not how the 16 year old sees it. The 16 year old thinks he looks cool, in that 'ancient African tribesman' sort of way. For now.
On the way home, I asked my kids what they thought about the 'gauge of madness', and they also made appropriate puking noises. Thank God for that. The oldest one is still going on about getting a second ear piercing and dying her hair blue, which until I saw the 'gauge of madness' was pretty annoying.
Now? I think I got off lightly, and I see that my prayers that my kids grow up at least a little balanced, centred and spiritually-healthy are being answered much more than I realized.