The time has come to state the truth, simple and unadorned: The Western Wall doesn’t belong to the Women of the Wall.
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.
The time 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.”
The 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.”
The 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 this place.
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 political agenda.
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 mouthpiece.
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.