Tuvia Book
Author, educator, Tour-Guide, artist

Tisha B’Av and the Wall

On Tisha B’Av last year I went to hear “Eicha” (the Book of Lamentations) read on the very site of the destruction of the Second Temple. I chose to attend both the services at Robinson’s Arch and at the “regular Wall.” I intended to exercise my right to attend an egalitarian service at Judaism’s holiest site. Our Rabbis teach us that the Second Temple was destroyed because of “Baseless Hatred” (Sinat Chinam) between Jews. You can imagine my consternation as I tried to make my way into the prayer enclosure at the Wall reserved for egalitarian services I was met by a wall of hate. Anyone entering had to run a gauntlet of young ultra-Orthodox men hurling verbal abuse at their fellow Jews. The Wall has for too long been under the exclusive control of the ultra-Orthodox faction of Judaism and has not been a Wall for all Jews.

 Tisha B’Av at Robinson’s Arch, Jerusalem (T. Book, 2017)

 

One of the prime reasons for the phenomenon of secular Israeli’s disinterestedness and disconnectedness from religious ritual practice could be what amounts to a de facto detachment between the majority of the State of Israel’s Jewish population to its religious Jewish establishment. There is tremendous antipathy they feel, as secular Zionist Israelis, toward the State’s Rabbinate. They view the Rabbinate as a bastion of ultra-Orthodox, non-Zionist, non-IDF serving “men in black,” who alienate the majority of their potential constituents by being both incredibly out of touch and openly antagonistic toward any lifestyle that does not respond to their own. As Daniel Gordis observed:

Israel’s rabbinate lives as if the rabbinic hegemony over Jewish communities continues unchanged from the Middle Ages, as if the Enlightenment and Emancipation had not yet arrived.”

The tiny women’s section, which is a fraction of the size of the adjacent men’s section, is an insult to women. Similarly, the lack of any role for woman in a traditional Orthodox synagogue setting is clearly at variance with the rise of the professional woman in the contemporary period. Women are now astronauts, doctors, lawyers, Talmud scholars and heads of State. In the 21st century there is a growing need of many religious women and men to readdress the role of women in Judaism. The gap between our social and ethical values and our synagogue lives is something that we should see as compromising our religious integrity. The proposed opening of the Western Wall extension would be a huge step in redressing this situation.

Prime-Minister Netanyahu’s reneging, under extreme ultra-Orthodox pressure, on his support of what is known as the “Sharansky Plan,” which would have converted the Robinson’s Arch section of the Western Wall to a prayer space on equal status regarding infrastructure and recognition to the segregated Orthodox section of the Wall is deeply disturbing. This area would allow egalitarian services and services where women will be free to pray aloud and read from the Torah without fear from harassment. What we need this Tisha b’Av is a positive step to making the holiest site of the Jewish people a place of tolerance, peace and harmony for all Jews.   As Rabbi A. I. Kook noted,

Just as the Temple was destroyed through baseless hatred (Sinat Chinam), it will only be rebuilt through baseless love (Ahavat Chinam).”

About the Author
Dr. Tuvia Book was born in London and raised in both the UK and South Africa. After making Aliya at the age of 17 and studying in Yeshiva he volunteered for the IDF, where he served in an elite combat unit. Upon his discharge he completed his BA at Bar-Ilan University, as well as certification in graphic design. He then served as the Information Officer at the Israeli Consulate of Philadelphia, while earning a graduate degree in Jewish Studies. Upon his return to Israel, Dr. Book graduated from a course of study with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and is a licensed tour guide. Tuvia has been working in the field of Jewish Education, both formal and informal, for many years. He has guided and taught Jewish students and educators from around the English-speaking world for some of Israel’s premier educational institutions and programs. Tuvia has been guiding groups for Birthright Israel since its inception and, in addition, has lectured throughout North America, Australia, Europe and South Africa. Tuvia served as a Shaliach (emissary) for the Jewish Agency for Israel as the Director of Israel and Zionist Education at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (Jewish Education Project). He was a lecturer/educational guide at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education (AMIIE) in Israel for a decade. Tuvia has lectured at both Bar Ilan University and Hebrew University. He is the author (and illustrator) of the internationally acclaimed Zionism curriculum; “For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Education” (fifth edition, 2017, Koren) and is at present working on his next book, a history of the Jewish people. Tuvia has a doctorate in Israel education. His dissertation title is: “Through the Soldiers’ Eyes: Exploring the Influence of a Birthright Mifgash on the Israeli Soldier Participants.”
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