The Women of the Wall would have us believe that they are defending the Western
Wall for everyone.
Considering that after 25 years and massive public
relations efforts the group can hardly gather 100 women on a good month, the
assertion sounds ludicrous.
Can you imagine so small a fringe group
demanding to do as it pleases at the Vatican? Westminster Abbey?
St.Patrick’s Cathedral in New York? Mecca? At any place of worship in
the world? That’s not freedom of religion, that’s anarchy! The Women of the Wall
can argue all they want that the Kotel is not a synagogue and has no tradition.
The claim is patently false.
There is a 1,700-year-long documented history of
Jewish prayer along the Western Wall and at least 500 years of a prayer
tradition at the current location. Lest you think the Jews prayed in the Reform
fashion until the evil haredim (ultra-Orthodox) showed up and usurped the power,
think again. There is ample photographic evidence to prove it.
has come to state the truth, simple and unadorned: The Western Wall doesn’t
belong to the Women of the Wall. The Western Wall belongs to its 10 million
visitors a year, who respect the sanctity and decorum of the site. The Western
Wall belongs to millions of Jewish women and men, who come to pray here every
day and oppose introducing any changes to the site. These people come to
reaffirm their connection with the spiritual, to unburden themselves of their
troubles, to reconnect with God on His terms, following the footsteps of their
ancestors for generations.
The Western Wall belongs to five million
religiously observant and traditional Israelis, who can’t imagine revamping the
traditional modes of prayer. As David Ben-Gurion had once quipped, “Although I
don’t go to a synagogue, I know which synagogue I don’t go to.”
Western Wall belongs to Israeli society, which has overwhelmingly rejected the
advances of the American Reform movement, the sponsors of the Women of the Wall.
When a rabbi of a prominent liberal Israeli city offered public funding for any
40 families interested in setting up a Reform temple, no one took him up on the
offer. There was simply no interest. As much as the group would like to position
itself as a grassroots initiative defending the rights of its members, its
supporters have made it patently clear that this is just the first step in their
battle “to liberate Judaism from the ties of an Orthodox hegemony.”
Western Wall belongs the worldwide Jewish community, people in countries like
France and Argentina, Australia and South Africa.
Even those who are not
personally observant, when they decide to go to the services they do so at what
American Jews call “Orthodox” synagogues.
No other exists, because no
significant Jewish community outside the US today can wrap its head around
reforming Jewish worship.
The Western Wall belongs to every person who
chooses this place of sanctity to pay homage to God. The Women of the Wall’s
recent call to turn it into a “national monument,” a Lincoln Monument or a Tower
of London of sorts, runs contrary to the wishes of almost every person coming to
The Western Wall belongs to every feeling person, who
understands that this sanctified site should unite us, not divide us. To all
those who believe that this is not the place to stage a media circus or push a
The Western Wall belongs to people for whom the tallit
and tefillin are objects of holiness, not PR props. Anat Hoffman showed her true
colors and lack of respect when she wrapped herself in a tallit at the Knesset
hearing this week.
The Western Wall belongs to all of these people, and
none of them have appointed the Women of the Wall to serve as their
Even Israel’s ultra-liberal Supreme Court has ruled that the
notion of 100 women calling the shots at a site visited by some 10 million
people annually is just too rich.
The Western Wall is the holiest site
available to us – a place we all can call home.
Let’s not let anyone take
that away from us.
The author is a founding member of the grassroots
organization WomenForTheWall.org, dedicated to preserving the sanctity and
tradition at the Western Wall in the spirit of Jewish unity.