The “Women of the Wall” and their backers in the Reform and Conservative movements crossed yet another red line last Wednesday, Rosh Chodesh Marcheshvan, when they brought sifrei Torah into the women’s section of the Kosel and held a “pluralistic” service at the site’s upper plaza.
The provocation led to physical clashes, shouting and unruly behavior, upsetting the tranquility of the site and disturbing the regulars who come to daven, not to demonstrate. Worse, still, was the use of sifrei Torah as “props.”
“The heart is torn at the sight of sifrei Torah … carried like protest banners,” said Harav Shmuel Rabinowitz, the Rav of the Kosel, who has been trying valiantly to preserve the status quo at the holy site.
Even the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement blasting the “one-sided violation of the status quo at the Western Wall” and noting that it “harms the ongoing efforts to reach a solution.”
Before even discussing the “solution,” we need to understand the problem. A few dozen women, masquerading as a movement, decided that they were not only entitled to conduct prayer services that contradict Jewish law and tradition, but that they were entitled to do so at the Kosel, desecrating the site’s sanctity and turning a symbol of unity into a flashpoint for divisiveness.
Initially regarded as an oddity, amusing to those who don’t care about the sanctity of the Kosel and infuriating to those who do, the Women of the Wall became the darlings of the media, which saw them as a means of undermining the religious establishment. Then the Reform and Conservative jumped on the bandwagon, after years of failed efforts to convince the Israeli masses that they were a legitimate “alternative” to Orthodoxy.
Today, the Women of the Wall continues to be a tiny group whose views raise eyebrows among the vast majority of the Israeli public. But it’s been given disproportionate power by the media, Israel’s hyperactive High Court of Justice and the support of the Reform and Conservative movements.
It has succeeded in distorting the issue by pushing buttons that are sure to evoke support and sympathy abroad. Instead of acknowledging the obvious, that the Kosel is a place of great sanctity whose laws and traditions must be respected, the Women of the Wall claim to be fighting the battle of women and disenfranchised Jews — i.e., Reform and Conservative — the world over.
“Women of the Wall and millions [sic] of its supporters in Israel and around the world are demanding an end to the discrimination against women and against the Reform and Conservative movements and to implement the Western Wall agreement,” Anat Hoffman, the leftist chairwoman of Women of the Wall, said last week. “This is the meaning of being a free people in our land.”
Hoffman and her cohorts make up for their paltry numbers with the support of the Reform and Conservative movements in the United States, who make their views known loud and clear to Israel’s prime minister and Knesset.
Likewise, our brethren in Israel must not be left alone in their battle to preserve the sanctity of the Kosel. It is U.S.- based Reform and Conservative movements that are the cause of this crisis, and it is the responsibility of the American Torah community to counterbalance the efforts. We must make our voices heard in meetings with Israel’s political leaders, in demonstrations and in any and every way deemed fit and appropriate by Gedolei Yisrael.
(It goes without saying that there is no place for the pseudo-Orthodox groups who try to curry favor with liberal elements by endorsing plans aimed at giving the Reform and Conservative recognition in Israel.)
The message must be that the kedushah of the Kosel is not negotiable. That our generation has no right to compromise on values that have been maintained, at great sacrifice, by previous generations going back 2,000 years. That some things are above politics.
Less than a year ago, the government of Israel agreed to a “compromise” that was problematic, to put it mildly. Facing a deadline by the High Court to come up with some kind of arrangement, it approved the allocation of an egalitarian, “anything goes” section to be placed under the authority of a pluralist committee — independent of the Chief Rabbinate, a dangerous precedent.
Entry to this site would be through the main entrance to the Kosel, giving the impression of equality among the streams of people at the Jewish people’s holiest site.
The Reform and Conservative made it clear that they weren’t going to stop at gaining equal status at the Kosel. The head of Israel’s Reform movement, Gilad Kariv, said that the compromise was “just the beginning of our efforts to ensure that the Jewish state of Israel is indeed a state where all forms of Judaism are practiced freely and without state prohibition.”
These movements have, in the words of Rav Rabinowitz of the Kosel, caused a terrible chillul Hashem. The proper response is a great kiddush Hashem that will result from the Torah community in America and around the world coming to the aid of their brothers in Eretz Yisrael to defend the kedushah of the Kosel.