The Western Wall — the family home

I tell all my Israeli-born friends: Imagine that your close family becomes scattered all over the world, with each person moving to a different country and meeting a new culture.

Many years later, plans are afoot for a family reunion. Members of the different family branches will come from all over the world to the reunion, bringing with them their values and identities. Putting this aside for the moment, try and imagine just how special such a reunion could be and how important it is that everyone comes to celebrate together as one family, like in the good old days.

It was unanimously decided that the most appropriate venue for this exciting meeting would be the parental home, where grandma and grandpa used to live and where the family once grew up together as one large unit. Everyone has their own special memories of that home and they all share a common yearning for it. One branch of the family remained living near the parental home, so they offered to organize and run the reunion. That’s when the questions arose – one person wanted the meeting to be according to his tastes, another one had a different concept about the upcoming event.

So how can one close these gaps within the family? Obviously, no one wants to cancel the event or ruin the chances of the reunion after so many years of being apart. The price to be paid of cancellation is far higher than that of accommodating all the different needs.

So, each side compromises a bit and considers how to make everyone feel comfortable. Everyone moves a step closer and does everything in their power to ensure that it will take place. After all, the purpose of the reunion is so important and sacrosanct, both for the generation of the parents who still remember and certainly for the young generation who look up to their parents and to their deep-seated roots from which nurture them. It is so important that the youngsters see their parents who come from all the different branches being together hand-in-hand and recalling their pleasant memories from their parental home. This togetherness will give the youngsters and subsequent generations so much strength for their future.

It is impossible to eradicate the identity of each one of the branches. In the many years since the family was dispersed, each branch developed its own language and identity to link the past with the future, and tradition with contemporary, political and cultural life of their current homeland. We must forge a path of deep-rooted identity which has elements gleaned from the host culture and with a strong sense of belonging to the glorious past history of the family.

If one branch of the family were to loudly declare that the parental home is their stronghold because they lived there so many years ago, and that all the other branches of the family are just guests the fabric of the family which previous generations had worked so hard to forge, will never be re-stitched together again. One cannot bring different parties together if you use phrases such as “local ownership”, “monopoly” and “closed-off section”. The most critical factor for the continued existence of the Jewish people is to look after all sectors of the nation. The geographical location is important and holy, but not more important than the actual reunion.

Let’s put aside the question of the money, the security assistance and their support for Israel in the host countries. Let’s put aside the fact that we are not talking here about changing one of the principles of Judaism, but rather about issues such as a woman putting on Tefillin. I personally do not practice this, but there is no actual halakhic transgression in doing so.

This is not what the whole issue is about, or at least not the most important point and let’s not argue about it. There will always be people who say that they are the ones who are the real guardians of the parental home and the nation (and they may very well be correct). We struggled in the past, and are still struggling, for our very existence here and to prove the justness of our cause among the nations of the world. I am also from here and I also vocally insist that whoever lives in Israel and is prepared to lay down his life for the country has priority in deciding policies regarding life here. However, it isn’t a question of who is correct and which side is more important, it isn’t a zero-sum game.

There is far more at stake here – the common bonds joining the entire Jewish people together, and for this because I will not remain silent. We must spread out our wings and accept everyone, to make a space so that everyone who arrives here with his baggage from his homeland will want to feel part of the Jewish state. If we do not do so, we will lose far more than our sovereignty and proven superiority, we stand to lose our joint roots and the equilibrium of all the different branches found on the tree.

About the Author
Orit Lasser is the head of education at Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah.