Motivation says it all — The Wall Controversy

So, I’d like to add my 2-bytes worth to the debate over the Wall Compromise issues and explain why/how I came to change my mind as a result of something on the Internet. First, I should set out why I am entitled to weigh in on these issues. I have a keyboard and internet access. Oh, and for some reason, Times of Israel allows me to post to this blog.

I was following a debate in the comments attached to an article on the Wall Controversy recently and was forced to change my views. The comments in question came to my attention because one of the commentators is a former rabbi (NO! Still is a rabbi – “was formerly the rabbi…”) at our (nominally) Orthodox small-city Ontario shul, whose intellect and knowledge (that of the rabbi!) I greatly respect. The other person I don’t know, but he also seems worthy of respect. Here are some critical points they were making at each other:

Other guy (OG): The ezor Israel area to the right of the ramp leading to the Temple Mount has been available for egalitarian prayer for the last 15 years. The government has gone back on an agreement to expand the area.

 

Former Rabbi (FR): It has gone back on an agreement to give Reform and Conservative Jews a say in that site. Among other things.

FR: Again, 63% of the Israeli public are for this deal.

 

OG: So, let’s close down the Knesset and just have opinion polls.

 

FR: The Knesset made the deal. And then reneged.

 

OG: Agreed. Once the government had agreed to expand the egalitarian area that has been for the last 15 years in front of the western wall of the Temple Mount they should have kept the agreement. …

FR: Reform and Conservative Jews have no area which they control.

 

OG: Seriously? That’s it? They have an egalitarian prayer area in front of the western wall of the Temple Mount. …

 

FR: Yes, that’s it.

 

OG: Whew.

 

FR: That is why the haredim are fighting so hard over it. … Reform and Conservative Jews at the Wall have all the rights of Christians. Or atheists. Or Satanists. And that is by design.

So, about a bunch of years ago (I’m trying to be as precise as I can) we flirted, here in Kitchener, with attempting to unite our fractious community by providing for alternate egalitarian, maybe-no-so-Orthodox services in a separate room of the building. The idea never got off the ground, despite support in theory by our then Rabbi (not the FR referred to above), for a number of reasons, most of which I’ve thankfully been able to block from memory.

But one point was well understood by all: Those who wanted to knit during Shabbat services potentially involving guitars were simply not going to find a place in the main sanctuary and would not control what went on there.

I was somewhat in support of the “left” over this issue until it appeared from the exchange above that (a) there IS an egalitarian area facing the Western Wall and (b) the real issue is control.  I ask myself, “if the egalitarian prayer is permitted, what does it matter who does the permitting”?  The conflict/issue is not at all an issue of access to G-d – it is an issue of access to power and domination by a minority over the majority.

That is just wrong. On every level. Breaking a deal is certainly unequivocally wrong – because it is the breaking of a deal. But, equally, I cannot see how one can justify a “right” to conduct a religious practice in the immediate face of somebody for whom it is wholly inconsistent with “the rules” by which that person feels compelled to live. Put another way, if your form of prayer is permitted, what difference does it make being in owned or leased premises?  People wishing to pray in a Conservative or Reform or other fashion are entitled to respect because they are people who are striving to communicate with G-d. People who just want, dafka, to insist that others bend to their will, not so much.

Oh, and don’t get me started on those who, faced with such conduct, react with violence, insults and fail to simply ignore that which might be contrary to the “rules” – they are the worst of all. After all, if the egalitarian services and women reading from the Torah (etc.) were all that offensive to G-d, you’d think G-d would say something ….

Let’s all give our heads a shake, remember the politeness and courtesy our mothers tried to teach us and start talking with, not at, each other.

About the Author
Simon Adler resides in Kitchener, Ontario where he is president of his congregation and, pending retirement, practices as a lawyer.
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