Jew vs. Jew at the Kotel: When We Are Our Own Worst Enemies

Intense and passionate debate and discussion are both Talmudic imperatives and cultural characteristics of the Jewish people. The goal is always towards understanding and improvement of the currently accepted state. However when that intensity and passion become political, exclusionary and alienating, Jews imperil themselves and become their own worst enemies. Much has been written about the “Jew vs. Jew” and “Who Is A Jew” phenomenon from which we must learn and accept we are prone to contributing to our own existential alienation and division.

As evidence points to an increasing distancing of Diasporan Jews toward the state of Israel, especially among the young at a time when the status of the Kotel is in such dispute, a perfect storm for further fracturing of Jewish unity is evident. While are enemies are screaming that the Kotel is not part of Israel and there is no Jewish claim to Jerusalem, we are arguing as to who may pray where at the Kotel…tantamount to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

The Prime Minister of Israel in reneging on agreements made in good faith explains for him the decision is made on “a Reform Kotel” vs. his loss of power. Such an admission completely disregards the needs and wishes of a vast majority of Jews in the world, for which the Kotel is the holiest of holy sites in Israel and threatens both Jewish unity and support for Israel within the Jewish community by well-intentioned Jews in a modern world who do not want to be governed by fundamentalist minor parties in a coalition government, which is not ruled by a majority party.

The fact of the matter is that the Prime Minister is both alienating more Jews in both Israel and the Diaspora and fractionalizing more Jews with this decision than uniting him and that will come home to roost for him political sooner rather than later. Like it or not, Jewish life is evolving in modernity and to deny it will be to miss an opportunity to grow and even devolve into extinction. Israel claims to be a democracy, but on such issues is caught in the grips of radical fundamentalists with all of lack of democratic ideals that implies. Israel is trying to define itself as to whether it will be a Jewish democratic homeland for the Jewish people or simply the Jewish State run as simply another Middle Eastern religiously run state where democracy is often sacrificed as both a principle and in practice.

Israel is at a crossroads and must decide for itself what it wants to be. Its modern history of being the eternal homeland for Jews was built on accepting Jews of all stripes and degree of worship and now there are signs that some Jews are not as worthy as other Jews within the society based on the intrusion of religious law into civil law and that is offensive to the majority of Jews.

Government reneging on inclusiveness and political crackdowns on freedom of speech in colleges and universities are becoming signs of a political and religious tyranny that may well be inconsistent within the humanistic, egalitarian and spirited vision of the founding parents of the Jewish state. Debate and discussion were meant to bring people together rather than divide them, perhaps permanently.

As an aging adult Child of a Holocaust Survivor and as a son, parent and grandparent with strong family ties to Israel, but must remain in the Diaspora at this stage of my life, I plea for the the government of Israel and the ultra-religious and and nationalist powers that be, currently to accept the plurality of our people and be both inclusive and just. You are a government of all Israelis and not just some. If you cannot do the right thing, step aside and let others with more understanding of the real existential crises facing the Jewish people both in the Diaspora and in Israel take over.

Israel was established to be “a light among the nations” and this kind of devolution pulls it to be a less than enlightened theocracy and not a Jewish democratic eternal homeland for all Jews. We must insist upon doing better…for ALL Jews.

About the Author
Retired College Professor (Walden University and Penn State University), President Emeritus and Co-Founder Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. Professional and Community Leader. Writer, Blogger, Academic Activist. Residing in Harrisburg Pennsylvania.
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