The Kosel Backlash

On Sunday, the Israeli Cabinet decided to suspend a plan for a designated mixed-gender prayer area at the Kosel. On the same day, a Knesset committee approved a bill that would recognize the authority of the Chief Rabbinate in matters of conversion.

As expected, the backlash from the reform and conservative lobby was immediate and vituperative.

The rhetoric that followed the news of the Cabinet decision was evident in the screaming headlines across much of the liberal media: “A slap in the face” to American Jewry; a “shameful day” for Israel; “PM appeases chareidi parties”; “Netanyahu to American Jews: We don’t want you.”

Of course, the champions of egalitarianism will not be satisfied with venting their hurt feelings. They have already said they will seek to overturn the government decision at the next High Court hearing.

As a token of its extreme displeasure, the Jewish Agency on Monday peremptorily canceled a dinner event scheduled with the prime minister. Such a stunning breach of protocol likely stems not only from the general atmosphere of indignation but also in view of the fact that the agency’s chairman, Natan Sharansky, himself had a major role in formulating the Kosel plan which has now been ditched. Later on Monday, it called on the government to rescind the decision.

The reaction among the segment of the populace that has actually been faithfully davening at the Kosel all these years was, of course, very different. For Torah Jews, the climb-down from a plan that would have encroached on the ancient traditions of the Jewish people at the Kosel, and keeping the sensitive process of giyur far away from the advocates of easy conversion, is certainly a good thing.

Furthermore, the claim that the decisions taken on Sunday were a blow to Jewish unity is outrageous and absurd.

Liberal Jewry contends that opening the Kosel to every heterodox group and practice promotes unity. Inclusivity is the watchword. By contrast, Torah Jews are depicted as exclusionist villains, the propagators of disunity.

In fact, the opposite is true. From its inception, Women of the Wall, with its untraditional, ostensibly inclusive agenda, has been a divisive force. It has repeatedly provoked ugly and violent confrontations, and then played the victim of the very incidents it caused.

It must also be pointed out again that no one is excluded from the Kosel under the status quo; visitors are merely asked to respect that status quo.

Under the guise of inclusivity and unity, they, with the enthusiastic backing of the reform and conservative leadership, have pursued their true agenda — that of destroying Jewish tradition. To that end, they are willing to sully the sanctity and disturb the tranquility of the Kosel, and they are willing to set one Jew against another at the place that more than any other represents the unity and eternality of the Jewish people.

Historically, unity was the last item on the honor roll of values extolled by the reform movement. How appropriate that the issue burst forth again on Sunday, a day after Parashas Korach was read (at least in places where the parashah is read). Korach and his followers challenged the authority of Moshe Rabbeinu as the prophet of Hashem, accusing those who are loyal to the faith of inventing laws and customs to suit their personal interests.

The path the reform have taken has left an immense swath of spiritual destruction among American Jewry. The widespread disaffection from Judaism, as reflected in the rate of intermarriage and sagging attendance at synagogue, belies the loud professions of unity.

The threats we hear that rejection of their demand for an egalitarian space at the Kosel and recognition of non-Orthodox conversions will result in the alienation of American Jews from the state of Israel contains no small amount of hypocrisy.

This, from a movement which for generations expunged Tzion and Yerushalayim from its prayer books as being “unenlightened,” and only more recently, when it suited their organizational interest, had a change of heart.

Furthermore, the alienation already exists, thanks to the reform and conservative movements. Surveys have shown the clear link between traditional faith and attachment to Israel. The more alienated American Jews are from Judaism, the less close they feel to Israel, and the less inclined to support it against international criticism and condemnation.

In conclusion, we quote the words of Harav Samson Raphael Hirsch, zt”l, the valiant battler against the scourge of reform, who noted that, in almost all instances in Tanach where the words emes and shalom appear together, emes comes first. That is because without adherence to the truth, any peace that is obtained will be false and fated to pass away.

The same can be said of this battle over the Kosel. An inclusivity, a unity, a peace, based on a false conception of Judaism will not last. Truth must come first. Then, peace and unity can follow.