Notes I took from the Kotel, and the ethics of snooping

It was all a hoax. At least that’s what the creator of the Facebook page “Notes I took from the Kotel” claimed. The site, which splayed prayers supposedly lifted from the Kotel, had been live for nearly a year, but went viral over the last several weeks. It amassed almost 10,000 Facebook ‘Likes’ while sparking fierce outrage from many more.

It wasn’t until Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall, filed a police report claiming that the page “desecrated a holy site” that the site’s administrator—self-identified as Amos from Holon—took down the page and wrote this to his followers:

“Well, let’s begin with this that I am not Amos and I am not from Holon. . .We opened this page a year ago as a satirical page in every respect, with all the contents – the notes, fabricated and written by us.”

Whether the site was indeed satire remains to be determined. That the page went viral at all, however, may be more important than its original intentions.

“Amos from Holon” did not originally promote the page as satire. “It’s unthinkable that we should not be exposed to the most interesting notes at the wall,” he wrote in a Facebook post, perhaps ironically.

While few would dispute that it is unethical to post private prayers on the Internet, one could argue that reading them is equally unethical—in doing so you become a complicit party in the violation of sacred act. If those ‘Liking’ the page believed that the prayers they were reading were authentic, it speaks to a society that is, at best, unreflective about the ethics of snooping, and at worst, unconcerned entirely.

Modern technology provides us with infinite little windows into the lives of other people, whether through social media, reality TV, or confessional memoirs. The more we dig, it seems, the deeper we want to go—taking increasing pleasure from the most intimate details of other’s lives.

Reading another person’s prayers appeals to this desire to dig deeper. It ups the stakes from the likes of reality TV, as we are never more real than when corresponding with the Almighty. “Amos from Holon” did one of two things: Either he detailed these correspondences—something that is deeply unethical, or he exposed—as the best satire does—a lack of ethics in society at large.


About the Author
Raffi Wineburg is a freelance journalist from Seattle, Washington.