The Wall for Peace: A Parisian Wailing Wall

There are times when a certain custom, way of life, or creative expression make so much sense to the human race that they are adapted to fit other circumstances, with the hope a similar result will occur. “What goes around comes around” – or maybe “the best inventions never lose their purpose” might be sayings that would apply in this scenario. Such is the case with the Paris Wall for Peace, the creation of artist Clara Halter, who conceived of the scheme, and architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, the man who drew the plans and delivered the idea to constructive reality. Wilmotte has earned international fame as the designer of “urban interior architecture,” a voguish name for the construction of public buildings that appeal to the same respect and reverence as your own home. Even before joining with Wilmotte, Halter had been very active in the propagation of peace through her efforts with Eléments, a European publication promoting and tracking the progress of peace in the Middle East. Given this experience in her life, it was quite natural that she would draw upon the symbols of Mid-Eastern culture in her conceptualization of the Wall for Peace. In particular, she reached into the religion of Judaism and the traditions surrounding the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem.

Paper Messages or Prayers Are Placed in the Crevices of the Wailing Wall
(Click for Larger Photo)

The Wailing Wall carries strong meaning to those of the Jewish religion, serving as a monument to their faith, a place of prayer, and symbol of Judaism’s tenacity in the face of persecution. According to tradition, the Wailing Wall at one time served as the western wall of the courtyard that enclosed the Jewish Temple Mount – upon which rested the actual temple initiated by Herod the Great in the year 19 BC. For this reason it is often referred to as the Western Wall, but it is also denoted as “Kotel” in Hebrew. With the exception of the temple mount itself, the Wailing Wall is held as the most revered site in Judaism and has been frequently photographed – making it a familiar landmark to people around the world. Many historians believe that the custom of praying before the wall gained popularity in the years following the Ottoman conquest of Jerusalem in 1517 – and it has been a point of friction between Judaism and Islam ever since. According to the long-held teachings of Judaism, the very gate of heaven is situated at the Wailing Wall and waiting to hear the prayers of those that approach.

You Can Email Your Messages to the Wailing Wall
(Click for Larger Photo)

Of particular significance to understanding the thinking behind the Peace Wall of Paris is the Jewish custom of placing slips of paper in the crevices of the Wailing Wall, containing wishes and hopes for the future. Ever since the earliest description of this tradition in 1743, there has been a running debate on whether or not worshippers are allowed to place their finger in the crevices of the wall – since in the tradition of more orthodox teaching such an action would breach the very holiness of the temple that once stood on the mount. At one time, the ritual of approaching the wall included the need to remove one’s shoes, but this parameter of worship eventually gave way – while the stricture to cover the head has remained. Today more than a million slips of paper are placed in the wall each year, and there are actual online services available – similar to “Window on the Wall” – through which Jews can email their notes to Jerusalem at a time of great spiritual need. Some organizations, such as the Christian Broadcasting Network, even provide a way for people all over the world to tweet their prayers, and in such a manner have them printed and placed in the wall.

The Wall for Peace Consists Mainly of Glass
(Click for Larger Photo)

Through the combined talents of Halter and Wilmotte, the Wall for Peace is a masterful and respectful transference of the Wailing Wall to Parisian society – and it has gained unexpected international fame and survived long past its intended staying time. Originally designed and intended to mark the millennium for the City of Paris, the President of the French Republic inaugurated its presence on the Champs de Mars on March 30, 2000. Sitting in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, the Wall for Peace consists of a metal structure that is covered with glass, stainless steel and wood of exotic origins. In the true spirit of the Wailing Wall, mailboxes are included as “chinks” in the design, intended for handwritten messages – thereby liberally borrowing from Judaic tradition. Inscribed on the monument is the word “peace,” written in 32 different languages. In another obvious replication of Jewish tradition, onsite computer hookups allow anyone in the world to send an email message to the monument – which is accordingly displayed on monitors at the actual site. You can send you own message this very minute by visiting the link at the website. Designed to include a scenic walkway, the location is now a gathering spot for progressive thinkers that mill about discussing and debating world issues. Tremendously popular, the Parisian Wailing Wall was originally intended to stand for a short period of time, and it has survived threats for its removal.

An obvious question in reference to this website is whether or not the concepts surrounding the Paris Wall for Peace could be adapted to the design of a national monument dedicated to the victims of terrorism. We think in the affirmative, especially in respect to the topic of world peace. However, you have your own opinion and you can express it with the survey below.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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From Russia With Tears: To the Struggle Against World Terrorism

Zurab Tsereteli is a Russian artist and architect who graduated from the world famous Tbilisi State Academy of Arts in Moscow. Despite controversy that surrounded his majestic and imaginative works of art and architecture, he rose to fame in the Soviet Union after befriending the mayor of Moscow and constructing a resort for children on the shores of the Black Sea at the town of Sochi – which will host the Olympic Winter Games in 2014.  At the culminate point of his fame, Tsereteli assumed the position of Professor and President of the Russian Academy of Arts, and he has at times been rumored to be involved in the construction of a Russian Disneyland. As evident in his efforts to help children, he has always been concerned about international cooperation and world peace through the promotion of culture and art – even taking on the founding role in promoting Russian support for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). He has also been very aware of efforts in the United States to promote a Special Olympics for disabled children, gaining a friendship with the founder, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, in the process. By the year 2001, Tsereteli had become a resident fixture in Moscow society – rising each morning and driving to his office at the Russian Academy of Arts along Moscow streets that took him right past the U. S. Embassy.

Zurab Tsereteli

On the morning of September 2, 2001, Tsereteli  was getting ready for work when news of the attacks on the World Trade Center began to emanate from the television set he was listening to as he hurried to leave his home. Moved to tears by what he saw that day, he immediately fell back on his artistic talent to express the deep feelings that enveloped and overwhelmed him – immediately setting upon sketching designs for a monument he dubbed “To the Struggle Against World Terrorism,” perhaps better known as the Teardrop Memorial.  As he drove to work that day with thoughts of this monument on his mind, his journey took him by large crowds of Russian people who were gathered outside the U. S. Embassy – a mass of crying people trying their best to express their sympathies to the United States for what had happened. Tsereteli identified with their feelings because he was in the same emotional quandary himself.

Russians React to the News of 911 outside the US Embassy in Moscow

Tsereteli’s design included a cylinder rising sharply from the ground, with a huge crack in the middle – where a large teardrop would be suspended, signifying both sorrow for the events of 911 and future hope for a world free of terror. He immediately made his way to ground zero in New York, in an effort to pick the proper site for his monument – which he fully intended to send to the United States as a gift and sign of international peace. Speaking with Russians who had witnessed the horror of 911, as well as Americans that he knew, he looked carefully for a location to place his monument. Ironically, the final place of honor for his artistic achievement is a parcel of land on a former military installation in New Jersey at the town of Bayonne, which had recently re-zoned the area as a park. The area where the World Trade Center had once stood was in plain sight, but the angle of perspective had always limited the view of the center to one building. Hence, the reason Tsereteli designed his monument with only one cylinder reaching to the sky, instead of two. The symbolism in his choice seems to reach out and say “there might have been 2 towers, but my single tower represents the one world we all live in, and the obvious need for peace this tragedy represents for that world.”

The “Teardrop Memorial”

The dedication for the Teardrop Memorial came on the 5th anniversary of 911. Former President Bill Clinton delivered a moving keynote speech, and Sergei Mironov, Chairman of the Council of Federation of the Russian Federal Assembly delivered words of sympathy to the American people and reminded all present that “the entire civilized world understands that terrorism has no boundaries and nationalities; it does not depend upon skin color or creed. We have to work together in an anti terrorist coalition … the most important thing is the security of citizens of every nation on our planet.” The national anthems of both nations were played, dignitaries from both sides shook hands and chatted about world peace, and former President Clinton thanked “his friend” Zurab Tsereteli for the wonderful gift he had bestowed on the United States. For a brief sliver of a moment, the world froze in place to meditate on its problematic future – and why peace is important to guaranteeing that future.

However, there is one very puzzling footnote to this historic event: most Americans are oblivious to the very existence of Tsereteli’s “Teardrop Memorial,” or the deep implications its dedication presented concerning the future of humanity and world peace. In fact, if you have read this far in this article there is probably an 80% chance that you had never heard of Tsereteli and his monument. The startling reason for this ignorance stems from the lack of mainstream media coverage the monument and its dedication received. It was even refused by the local government of Jersey City, and you would likely be nonplused by what Wikipedia says of this monument that fostered the deepest exchange of friendship between the United States and Russia since the founder of U. S. nautical might, John Paul Jones, honed his sailing skills in the Russian Navy.

Nevertheless, there is no denying the very deep statement on terrorism the Teardrop Memorial represents. Despite nicknames, such as “the biggest 9/11 memorial you’ve never heard of,” it stands as a reminder to the tragic death of those whose names are inscribed at the base of the cylinder. There is no doubt that, left unrecognized and unchecked, terrorism stands as a deadly menace to mankind’s future. However, for at least one day this ugly menacing monster, along with lingering remnants of the Cold War itself, fell to its knees in respect for peace. Be sure to participate in the poll below and let us know what you think.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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