President Reuven Rivlin.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
President Reuven Rivlin has been inundated with requests to voice an opinion on the Western Wall argument. Does he believe that the Western Wall is sacred only to a certain segment of the Israeli population that believes in gender segregation, or does he go along with the American concept, the family that prays together stays together?
It was understandable that both sides should turn to the president who has intensively advocated unity and equal opportunity among what he calls the four tribes of Israel – one of which is not Jewish.
On Thursday afternoon, members of the president’s spokespersons’ team began telephoning media outlets to say that the president was releasing a statement.
Anyone who thought that Rivlin was going to take sides was mistaken as the statement was totally non-committal. In the introduction Rivlin – who on other occasions has described himself as “secular orthodox” – reminisced how during the British Mandate period, he would accompany his father to the Wall at the conclusion of Yom Kippur to hear the blowing of the shofar. He described the diversity of the crowd without mentioning a separate women’s section, and the efforts made to protect the shofar blower from the Mandate police. This, for him, was symbolic of the eternal faith of the people.
Fast forward 50 years to the reunification of Jerusalem and the return to the remnants of the Temple.
“In those moments it was clear to all of us that the hope of the Jewish People had been realized, and since then we have all been involved in reconstructing our homeland,” Rivlin said.
Acknowledging the painful disputes that have erupted since then, albeit founded on “genuine beliefs,” Rivlin urged remembering that beyond the discord “we are all one family and that every Jew has a place in their heart for the Western Wall.”
What he failed to say is, even if they have a place in their heart, does he feel they should have a place on the ground next to another Jew of their choice?