There is hardly a week without some upheaval at the Western Wall plaza, but this past week the news, articles and Facebook posts came in a quick succession.
A story of the first bat mitzvah among the Women of the Wall, with a “backup Torah scroll” smuggled in and used after the first one was found and taken away by the police. The spitting, catcalls, a prayerbook torn by an incensed Orthodox man. The police men and women attempting to keep some level of – order? Decency? Protection of Jews from Jews? I can’t stop thinking about the emotional burden that everyone involved in these events is carrying.
There was a Rosh Chodesh egalitarian minyan held in the back of the plaza, also under heavy police protection, also met with protests. Then the Jerusalem Post interview with Ronnie Reich, the head of the Archeological Council of Israel, with the details of the ultimate impact that the construction of the egalitarian prayer platform would have on the only visible remnant of the destruction of the Second Temple.
And then came the news of the UN resolution sponsored by Jordan and the PA that completely denies any Jewish historic ties to the Temple Mount. That’s when I realized that we had gone down a humongous communal rabbit hole, with no prospect of even slowing down the fall, not to mention any kind of landing – bumpy or not. Unless we, as Klal Israel, as One People, dramatically change the paradigm of the conversation.
As it has been stated eloquently many times, the Western Wall does not belong to any political, ideological, denominational entity. It is a heritage of the Jewish People, given to us in stewardship. Each INDIVIDUAL has a right to access it in respect, and offer his or her INDIVIDUAL prayers there. There should be no minyanim there – Orthodox, non-Orthodox, or any other type of COMMUNAL prayer that would necessitate deliberations about the mechitza, who is or is not counted in a minyan, who can say kaddish, who can get an aliyah or can read from the Torah. We have no dearth of synagogues in Jerusalem where all points of view and all interpretations of what it ritually means to be Jewish today could be accommodated. Regardless of the nobility of intentions and purity of passion for the Jewish enterprise behind the motivations of all sides involved in the protracted wrestling match that is being played out in the Western Wall plaza – shame on all of us for letting it get this far, letting it become so irrational, so acrimonious!
I cannot claim this to be my original idea. Rabbi Daniel Bouskila wrote about it in The Jewish Journal in February 2016. I loved it then, I have loved it since, and I came to see it as the only way out – simple, courageous and wise halachically, politically, spiritually, communally. A paradigm shift. An absolutely necessary one, if we want to retain a shred of our communal sanity and dignity. Individual prayer only, no mechitza, no minyanim. Just as it used to be, and with the government taking over the administration of the whole site to make it simpler, easier (they have to provide the police force anyway).
The rest of the details you “big guys” can figure out, I hope. But enough with this mess! I want my Wall back; we all want the Wall back! Let’s leave deciding who is ultimately right for the Messiah; let’s move the wrangling around the denominational legitimacy, ritual boundaries for women, etc. out of the Kotel plaza and back into conference rooms, where it belongs. Let just get this done, because the spectacle that it evolved into is eroding our individual and communal strength. And if we are able to rise to this challenge, we might, just might, be able to properly focus together on the international attempts to deny us right to our sacred heritage in the first place. Not to mention all the other serious challenges of our time.