November 6, 2016: Whose Wall is it?

At the Kotel, people ought to be experiencing the presence of God and the love of His word.

November 5, 2016 20:35

Letters. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Whose Wall is it?

With regard to “Violent fracas breaks out at Western Wall during progressive prayer rally” (November 3), the unpleasant scenes bring nobody credit, but they reinforce the wisdom of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein’s dictum that there is a difference between genuine spirituality and love of God, on the one hand, and making a militant statement, on the other.

At the Kotel, people ought to be experiencing the presence of God and the love of His word.

Both are compromised when they shout and hurl insults at each other, and one group tries to wrest the Torah from the other.

The non-Orthodox say the Orthodox are turning the Western Wall into an Orthodox synagogue; the Orthodox say the non-Orthodox are desecrating the holy site. What next? Will the wrestling turn into boxing? There is an established tradition at the Kotel, that men and women pray separately. No one has any right or reason to change that. Further, it satisfies the truly pious who come there to pray at all hours of every day and night of the year.

A compromise was accepted some months ago. There were grumbles, but pragmatism won out. The Orthodox would have their status quo; the non-Orthodox would have their separate area. The Orthodox would not be legitimizing the others; the non-Orthodox would not be disenfranchising established tradition.

It should have worked, but then came the issue of what entrance gate would be used by the non-Orthodox. It sounded like a petty problem, but it had a genuine seriousness about it: The Orthodox did not want to have to see non-Orthodox people mingling with them in an atmosphere that would upset their conscience, such as inappropriate dress, mixed-gender singing and women carrying Torah scrolls.

A practical answer is surely not beyond the talents of architects and building planners. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who seems to have become the Minister for Everything, can surely find an adviser to work it out.

The writer is emeritus rabbi of the Great Synagogue, Sydney.

I was dismayed to learn of the “fracas” at the Western Wall. I do not condone the actions of the attackers. Neither verbal nor physical violence is acceptable; they are not an effective way to resolve differences. However, I also have issues with those who came to impose their will.

My understanding of Reform Judaism is that it considers the Torah to have been written by divinely inspired men, and that each individual is allowed to choose how he or she observes Jewish laws and customs. This makes it surprising to me that these people came to the Kotel bearing Torah scrolls – which Orthodox Jews believe to be the direct words of God – using them as shields.

Members of the group claimed they wanted to perform the Rosh Hodesh service. Their actions, however, appeared to be more self-serving than about serving God. They came to make a point in public rather than focus on a meaningful prayer service.

Prayer is about communicating with God. It can hardly be sincere in an atmosphere of disturbance and attention-seeking.

All Jews must be able to pray at the Western Wall. The “service of the heart” is always welcome there; however, the manner in which one recites the prayers must be acceptable to the others in attendance.

If one who does not observe kashrut makes a party and serves kosher food, this person makes it possible for everyone to come and participate. Likewise, if one sincerely wants to pray at the Kotel, he or she can certainly do so in a manner that does not affect the ability of others to do the same.



Loose lips

While it is good for a state to have a comptroller, and while Joseph Shapira should be commended for exposing government faults, he also should exercise responsibility in what he reports to the public (“Comptroller: State not prepared for cyber threats,” November 2).

In this case, it was an open invitation to our enemies to embark on cyber attacks. Shapira might as well have announced where our military weaknesses lie so that our enemies can direct their attacks there.


What country, with enemies on all sides, lets its enemies know its weak points? These things should be discussed only in top-secret national security meetings.



Obama and Israel

In “Will betraying Israel be Obama’s farewell gesture?” (Candidly Speaking, November 2), Isi Leibler writes of US President Barack Obama’s “obsession to distance the US... from Israel.”

He backs his claim by quoting Obama as saying “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established....” He implies that this statement is a significant departure from previous presidents’ commitments to secure borders for Israel.

The statement of then-president George W. Bush, who called for an agreement “achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes,” hardly differs from Obama’s statement.

It is hard to understand how a president who has provided record amounts of aid to Israel could be characterized as wanting to distance the US from Israel.

Leibler’s writing is a fine example of sensationalism and bias.


It is with no element of schmooze that I praise Isi Leibler.

Such clarity of expression of such a logical and historically-based scenario should go straight from his pen to God’s ears!



IBA English News

Once again, as mentioned in the November 2 Grapevine feature, the IBA English News is scheduled to be terminated.

As Greer Fay Cashman writes, the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel has pointed out not only that Israeli English speakers depend on the news in English, but that Israel is “packed with tourist, pilgrims, students, overseas workers, diplomats, journalists and so forth, and warn that if they can’t get their news in English in Israel, they will turn to Jordan and get a different slant.”

The staff of the IBA English News, in spite of constant harassment and threats of closure, is doing an excellent, honest and pro-Israel telecasting job. It would be to Israel’s determent to discontinue this.

Zichron Ya’acov

It’s about time

Reader Harold Bourne (“Truth about Jesus,” Letters, November 2) upbraids you for publishing a news item that “ignores the likelihood that Jesus never existed.”

This is possible, and it could be true that “Paul inaugurated Christianity with an imaginary biography of Jesus” that “suited Emperor Constantine, who was looking for a religion he could make official in Rome, with himself at the head.” However, the reader’s claim that Paul did this in about 300 CE cannot be right, since the writings attributed to him were certainly current some 200 years earlier.


Salford, UK

‘Refugee camp’

Regarding “Nablus head appeals to Balata residents to cooperate with PA” (November 1), I understand why there was a Palestinian “refugee camp” when Jordan seized the land in 1948, and maybe, due to Palestinian pride, why there was a “refugee camp” when Israel reclaimed that land. But tell me: Why is there a “refugee camp” now under the Palestinian Authority? How can you be a refugee from yourself?



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