Where to begin? Is it the abject disrespect towards diaspora Jewry? Is it the disrespect given to the enfranchisement of women? Is it the disrespect given to other branches of Judaism? Is it a holier-than-thou attitude that only their particular religious version of Judaism is the legitimate version? Is it the abject spinelessness of the Prime Minister that is at play?
Whatever your take on the Kotel controversy, here is the reality. The government of Israel in conjunction with the Jewish Agency, and with other branches of Judaism, had hammered out an agreement that would have created an egalitarian prayer area at the Kotel, and now the government has reneged. It is merely an indication that Jewish pluralism in Israel is a myth and a lie when it comes to Israeli politics. It is a myth that Israel actually cares what Diaspora Jewry thinks about Judaism. It is a myth that the Israeli government cares that the majority of Diaspora Jews are not Orthodox, and that they respect our version of Judaism, that they will work to have Reform and Conservative conversions respected in Israel. Don’t be so touchy they tell us.
It is Israeli politics we are told. Bibi would lose his government if the Haredim backed out and they made this an issue. Just move on we are told. You in the diaspora don’t get how Israeli politics works. It’s nothing personal. It’s just business as usual. Besides why do you the unobservant care so much about the Kotel, when you Reform and liberal Jews don’t even support a unified Jerusalem? You should have fought harder and gotten more Israelis on our side for this issue if it was so important to you.
Why are we in the Diaspora so upset over this balagan? The answer is simple. It’s because, in truth, the Prime Minister of Israel just told Diaspora Jewry to go to hell.
Those of us who seek an egalitarian prayer space want to remind the powers that be in Israel that …We. Are.Jews. equal to any religiously observant Jew. The Kotel belongs to us, too. We are entitled to pray at the Kotel, the way we want to pray without fear of being attacked, assaulted, and demeaned.
Jewish holy places mean as much to us as they do to the observant, and whether we support settlements, a unified Jerusalem, or a more religious education in Israeli schools, has nothing to do with our rights as Jews to pray at our holy places in the manner that we wish to pray. Whether we support Bibi or not has nothing to do with our right to pray as we wish at our holy places. Whether we care about internal Israeli politics has nothing to do with our right to pray as we wish at our holy places. Whether we call the territories “occupied,” “disputed,” “the West Bank,” or “Judea and Samaria” has nothing to do with our right to pray as we wish at our holy places.
The reality is that this action taken by the Israeli government is just more proof that nonreligious Jews need not apply where Israel is concerned. We are not welcome. Israel’s inability, and lack of desire, to understand or learn about the Reform and Conservative movements is indicative of a people that have no use for more than half of their own family. As far as religion is concerned in Israel, it’s my religious way or the highway.
Well that is not how life works in the real world. And until Israel actually takes the time to understand how those of us who are less observant see the Jewish world, then we will continue to have these issues. And Israel will continue to lose support among less observant Jews.
In the meantime, stop complaining about the rate of intermarriage, about the lack of a Jewish education, about anything to do with the diaspora Jewish world. Stop complaining that young Jews don’t care about Israel the way their predecessors did…which by the way is a falsehood.
The truth of the matter is that Israel doesn’t really care about us or our survival in the diaspora beyond what Israel wants us to do, and how they can use us to accomplish their own goals. Our thoughts, our feelings our existence is truly immaterial to the Israeli government. We in the diaspora are there merely to do what Israel wants and then shut up about everything else. This attitude more than any rate of intermarriage is what will doom the Israeli-Diaspora relationship. People who are made to feel unnecessary to someone else’s existence, people who feel that they are being used, will eventually move on to a place where they are really wanted, and respected.
I suggest Israel think about how they themselves are adding to the schisms within the Jewish people. It’s really not all the Diaspora’s fault. And the Kotel balagan is the poster child of problem.