Prayer wall is gift to the community

egrisamore@macon.comJuly 4, 2014 

The wall is an impressive 15 feet high, 60 feet long and a solid 250 tons of cast cement.

Those who travel along Price Road have probably noticed the recent construction near the front of Beth Yeshua International. They might have wondered if the Messianic Jewish synagogue was undergoing an expansion of its four-year-old building.

Or, Rabbi Greg Hershberg said, laughing, constructing a giant handball court.

Yes, it’s a wall, but not just any wall. It’s a replica of the famous Western Wall in Jerusalem, one of the most sacred religious destinations in the world. The Kotel Ha-Ma’Aravi, sometimes known as the “Wailing Wall,” has been a holy place of prayer and pilgrimage for people of the Jewish faith for centuries.

It took five months and $50,000 to reconstruct the Western Wall in western Macon.

Hershberg considers the wall a gift to community. It is not limited to those who attend Beth Yeshua. It is a place to pray, meditate, listen to the birds and stroll in the nearby olive garden. The gates will be open from sunrise to sunset every day.

The wall will be officially dedicated July 12 during the worship service at 10:10 a.m., but Hershberg said people have been stopping by the wall for weeks.

Beth Yeshua is among the most diverse congregations in Macon. Hershberg, a native New Yorker who came to Macon 12 years ago, was born an Orthodox Jew. His wife, Bernadette, was raised an Irish Catholic.

He was “saved” at the Western Wall while on his honeymoon in September 1989 and has made many return trips. He and his wife are taking a group of 55 people there in October.

Messianic Judaism is a religious movement with its roots in the reunification of Jerusalem after the Six-Day War in June 1967. It is a blend of traditional Jewish religious practices with evangelical Christian theology. A majority of Messianic Jews believe in the teachings of the New Testament -- that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God.

Hershberg said worship services are a cross-section of “blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, Catholics, charismatics and anything in between.”

He sees the wall as a way to reach out to people from all walks of faith through the universal power of prayer.

“There is a song in Israel that some people have hearts of stones, and some stones have hearts of people,” he said. “Millions and millions of people have gone to the Western Wall crying out to God. I don’t think God’s ears are any more attentive at the wall, and I don’t think the wall itself has power. It is a way to show we are faithful and serious about our prayers.”

Hershberg came up with the idea for building the prayer wall after visiting with his close friend, the Rev. Dean Haun, the former pastor at First Baptist Church of Jonesboro who is now at First Baptist in Morristown, Tennessee.

He said they talked about people who still believe in the Bible, but might have turned away from organized religion. He used the illustration of a father who doesn’t attend church, but is faced with the struggles of a child who has cancer.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if he knew people were praying for him?” said Hershberg. “With the wall, I’m not talking about marketing. I’m not talking about leaving your name, and we’ll call you and give you a free pen. I’m talking about an act of grace.”

He said people can visit the wall and feel a connection without ever darkening the doors of the sanctuary.

When he approached the elders at Beth Yeshua with his vision, “they asked if I wanted to do cinder block, and I told them no,” said Hershberg. “I wanted to invest.”

A local artist and construction company designed and built the wall in five months. After the groundbreaking, Hershberg placed Bibles in the foundation.

Much like the wall in Jerusalem, where people often leave notes in the cracks and crevices, Hershberg said those who have special prayer requests can place them inside a “prayer box” next to the wall. He and a “prayer team” of four intercessors will then pray on their behalf.

“Prayer is humility saying, ‘I don’t have the answer, and I need you,’ ” he said.

He cited scripture from Second Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

Hershberg said his desire is to see similar prayer walls built in other places. Walls can be a means to bring people together, not a barrier to divide them.

“I would like to see one in every city in the United States,” he said. “They don’t have to be at a church. They could be downtown. If we had ‘prayer points,’ we could have everybody praying for the same things.”

Contact writer Ed Grisamore at 744-4275.

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