(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)
The Jewish nation is bidding farewell to the holidays of the month of Tishrei. This is a beautiful time which integrates the vow of faith on Rosh Hashana, the introspection on Yom Kippur, the joy of simplicity on Succot and connection to the chain of generations on Simhat Torah. Here, at the Kotel, the Western Wall, it was a very busy time. Over the course of just several weeks, over a million people visited the Kotel, breaking all records for this season, praying together at the foot of Temple Mount.
With grace from above and thanks to the incredible efforts of overt and covert security personnel, we were privileged to celebrate the holidays peacefully, despite the murderous threats which have cast a shadow over the Kotel since Yom Kippur of 1929 when hoodlums “protecting the Temple Mount” murdered and wounded hundreds of defenseless Jews.
Over a million worshipers at the Western Wall responded in unison to UNESCO’s disgraceful decision which sought to disconnect the nation of Israel and its capital Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and Western Wall. Women and men, observant and secular, young and old, yeshiva students and university students, Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews – all joined together to recite Slichot, penitential prayers, each in their own tradition, praying together during the High Holidays, and dancing together with Torah scrolls.
Thus, after a bitter year full of disputes, we witnessed the amazing sight of Jewish unity at the Western Wall. And the single, simple truth was uttered by a million varied voices – the Jewish nation wants the Western Wall the way it is. They want the Kotel with all its ancient traditions, the Kotel that is not updated, the one where a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jew and a secular Jew can pray together, the one where a traditional Jewess and a modern Jewess can stand in prayer one alongside the other. Does each of the million people who ascended to the Kotel during this past Tishrei act this way in their own home or synagogue? Of course not. But at the Western Wall, they were all willing to set aside their own unique Jewish traditions and adopt an attitude of humility and solidarity with their brothers and sisters.
Despite the efforts of extremists, the Western Wall has not become a battlefield between streams and opinions. The Western Wall is not the place where the State of Israel determines its stand regarding the right of every Jew to practice his tradition and faith as he wishes. All around the world, Jews maintain their ancient traditions differently. Occasionally, this even leads to bitter disagreements among us. But more than a million visitors to the Western Wall proved that the Jewish nation wants to leave the Western Wall outside of these disagreements, leaving it as the one place where every Jew can come, in humility and love, and connect to our forefathers’ tradition.
If we heed this call, the beginning of this new year could also herald a tremendous healing.The author is rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites.