Members of Women of the Wall at a prayer service at the Kotel in 2013.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
For almost two centuries, the Jewish nation has been torn into different streams. New ideas and trends came on the world stage.
Liberalism sanctifies the rights of the individual. Feminism demands equality for women, and so forth.
The tear is deep and painful, and the entire nation feels the high and terrible price which we all pay for the separation and divisiveness among the various groups and sectors.
Despite all this, throughout the years and within all the camps, one common basic principle was maintained – the Western Wall is off limits.
In the face of the huge and royal Western Wall stones, which saw our forefathers killing each other in the Temple courtyard, all disputes were dwarfed, and the roaring voices were lowered. As members of one family who go their own way, and who when returning to their grandparents’ home act in accordance with their childhood traditions – we all agreed to set aside our disagreements and differences, and at the Western Wall, act as our ancestors did.
No one ever dared turn the Kotel into an arena for demonstrations or conflict. No one ever dared defile the respect sensed by every man and woman coming to worship at the Wall, the remnant of our Temple.
Never – until the Women of the Wall decided to use the Western Wall as a public stage for their ideological struggle.
For over two years, I have been calling to and begging the Women of the Wall to leave the Western Wall Plaza and its worshipers alone. The egalitarian and liberal section was built with much public funding, and today it stands desolate, waiting for the worshipers they represent, who do not appear. Month after month, the Women of the Wall walk past that plaza and then turn toward the traditional women’s section in order to instigate riots that will give them more headlines for their feminist struggle.
On Rosh Hodesh Heshvan, the last dam was breached. Representatives of liberal movements, who at the start cooperated with the prime minister’s attempts to find a solution acceptable to all sides, shirked their historic responsibility to this sensitive site and joined the demonstrators for a provocative march of the Women of the Wall. I do not know how to describe the shame of seeing tens of men and women violently making their way to the traditional women’s section while holding Torah scrolls as shields.
I do not know how to repair the chilul Hashem, the desecration of God’s name, that results when a street fight breaks out at the gates of the Western Wall and the world sees and listens.
The struggle of the Women of the Wall is not for the Kotel, but for the place of women in every synagogue in the world. They declare this themselves over and over. Taking advantage of the tremendous sensitivity of the Western Wall, the site most precious to all of us, to attain this goal is the same path we suffered with the zealots of the Second Temple who brought the destruction upon us. God forbid we should go down that path again.
The author is rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites.