The Old Game is over

The chairman of the Knesset’s Committee of the Interior, Miri Regev MK, is reported to have called last week for the Kotel not to be turned into a place for demonstrations. “We must preserve the unity and the sanctity of the site,” she proclaimed. “The Kotel should be kept out of arguments and disputes.”

Her observations come in the wake of demands by the Women of the Wall to be allowed to pray at the Kotel in their own way. Her remarks reminded me of King Canute the Great’s courtiers who thought that, if he sat on his throne on the seashore and gave a command, the tides of the sea would advance no further. Needless to say, they were wrong.

The forces of nature are more powerful than the strongest of rulers and it’s high time that Israel’s politicians were more sensitive to the winds of change.

The old game is over. Israeli couples, who don’t want the Chief Rabbinate interfering in their lives, are increasingly just not marrying. Many of them prefer to enter into legal contracts with one another rather than having to deal with the religious authorities.

Those not wishing to be buried by the charedi burial societies that control most of the municipal cemeteries simply seek out kibbutzim or organizations like Menucha Nechona where they can have ceremonies more reflective of the kind of people they were during their lives.

The orthodox rabbinate and its political henchmen can try to hold back the winds of change, but they have no more chance of doing so than King Canute did of turning the tide.

All of these calls in the name of “the unity of the Jewish People” are simply bogus and misguided. Why should we not accept diversity and encourage mutual respect and tolerance?

After all, tractate Yevamot teaches us that 24,000 of Rabbi Akiba’s students died during the period of the Counting of the Omer because they did not respect one another.

Why should the Women of the Wall be denied the right to pray in their own way simply because the charedim don’t respect them and throw stones at them? Whose wall is it anyway?

About the Author
Rabbi Boyden was educated and received his rabbinical ordination in London, England. Having served as the rabbi of Cheshire Reform Congregation for thirteen years, he made aliyah with his family in 1985. He has established Reform congregations in Ra'anana and Hod Hasharon and previously served as director of the Israel Reform Movement's Beit Din.