Use of shofar, guitar 'unreasonable'

Conservative Movement barred from using them in bar-mitzva near Kotel.

state-religion survey 224 (photo credit:)
state-religion survey 224
(photo credit: )
The secular head of a tourism site at Robinson's Arch, a location adjacent to the Western Wall designated for use by the Conservative Movement, has prohibited a prayer group from using a shofar and an acoustic guitar in a bar mitzva ceremony. Moshe Michli, who manages tourism sites for the East Jerusalem Development Company (EJDC), including the archaeological site at Robinson's Arch, told the prayer group use of a shofar and a guitar was "unreasonable," according to Jacob Ner-David, whose son, Adin, celebrated his bar mitzva on Sunday. "We tried to explain to him that there was a custom of starting to blow the shofar today, the first day of the month of Elul," said Ner-David. "But he refused to allow us to blow it because he said it was unreasonable. In the end we snuck a shofar in and blew it anyway. But they did stop us from bringing in the guitar. It was a beautiful prayer anyway." According to Jewish tradition, the shofar is blown every morning after prayers beginning one month before Rosh Hashana. Most congregations begin blowing the shofar on the first day of Elul. But some congregations begin one day before that, on the 30th day of Menahem-Av. Moshe Begaon, spokesman for the EJDC, said the use of musical instruments on the site was disruptive. "The EJDC allows groups from the Conservative Movement to use Robinson's Arch free of charge, even though it is not obligated to do so," he said. "Meanwhile, there are groups who pay to get into the site. "Now we allow the Conservatives to come in and pray quietly and leave. But we cannot allow them to do things that are not part of the worship, such as playing music and dancing, when this bothers people who pay to hear about the history of the place." Ner-David said the shofar was an integral part of the service. "My son has been researching the history of the shofar for the past year," he said. "He based his bar mitzva speech on the subject. So we were not about to allow them to prevent us from blowing it." Ner-David said Yehuda Katz, a cantor and musician, wanted to incorporate the guitar in the singing of the Hallel prayers. For more than a decade, organizations such as Women of the Wall fought to be given the right to pray at the Western Wall. In the wake of a petition by the Masorti (Conservative) Movement and the Women of the Wall, the High Court of Justice ordered the government to find a solution that would enable egalitarian prayer groups at the Western Wall. Robinson's Arch was chosen.