A partial shutdown of the U.S. government went into effect at 12:01 a.m. this morning, because of a purely political fight over the border wall.
In Judaism, our holiest place that we pray to three times a day is the remaining Western Wall (Kotel) of the Beit HaMikdash (Temple). Anyone who has ever been to the Kotel knows that it is truly a holy and spiritual experience like no other. Going and praying there brings peace and security to us spiritually. Moreover, separations are used in all aspects of Judaism, whether for modesty to separate men and women in Synagogue (mechitza), milk and meat (kashrut), activities of work and rest (muksa), and wool and linen (shatnez) to name just a few.
Similarly, a physical wall like that which President Trump wants to build on our southern border also works to secure us and separate us–in this case physically–from illegal immigrants, drug smugglers, human traffickers, violent gangs, and terrorists. At the same time, we must get meaningful immigration reform, so people can enter legally, in a clear process, and with respect and dignity.
In 2017, final approval was granted to increase the security of the White House by raising the fence five feet and adding a new concrete foundation. In 2001, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, barriers went up all around Washington, D.C. to protect our Federal Buildings and Monuments. Around the world, our embassies in the most dangerous nations, are surrounded by walls to protect our diplomats and interests abroad.
Common sense dictates that barriers and walls be used to protect people and places, whether it’s Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi–they all have walls around their residences and it’s not just for aesthetics!
Israel has been most successful with building 500 miles of protective separation barrier/wall along the West Bank and 143 miles along its southern border, thereby drastically reducing terrorism and illegal immigration. While the U.S.-Mexican border is considerably larger at about 2,000 miles and across varied landscapes, there is no reason that we cannot learn from Israel’s success in this area.
By themselves, walls do not work to fill us spiritually or protect us physically. Rather, they are a necessary component in a normal and healthy toolbox for living our lives. Spiritually, we need to not just pray toward the holy wall in Jerusalem, but we must augment this with following G-d commandments–doing good in our service to Hashem and in how we treat others. Likewise with protecting us physically, we need a strong mix of “gates, guards, and guns.” A wall is a critical component of our overall spiritual and physical well-being and protection.
Walls are not hateful in and of themselves. Of course, we would all prefer to “build bridges not walls,” just as we would all prefer to pray at our Holy Temple rather than a single remaining Wall (as holy as it is). But we must all face reality, until Mashiach comes and the Temple is rebuilt and “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruninghooks” , we will need walls for our physical and spiritual peace and security, and that’s an investment that we must be willing to make.