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January 09, 2013

War On The Kotel? Pluralistic And Secular Groups Ask Israel’s High Court To Take Control Of The Kotel Away From Haredim, Orthodox

KotelThe secular and pluralistic groups want secular Jews, non-Orthodox Jews, and women to be given equal representation in the management of the Kotel, also known as the Western Wall – the second holiest site in Judaism after the Temple Mount itself. The groups also want control of the site removed from the Western Wall rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, who is haredi and who was closely associated with former haredi leader Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, and they want the Western Wall Heritage Foundation to be disbanded.

Kotel

Pluralistic And Secular Groups Ask Israel’s High Court To Take Control Of The Kotel Away From Haredim, Orthodox
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com

The Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, women's organizations and “various pluralistic movements” have filed a petition with the High Court of Justice against Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, Ynet reported today.
 
The secular and pluralistic groups want secular Jews, non-Orthodox Jews, and women to be given equal representation in the management of the Kotel, also known as the Western Wall – the second holiest site in Judaism after the Temple Mount itself. The groups also want control of the site removed from the Western Wall rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, who is haredi and who was closely associated with former haredi leader Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, and they want the Western Wall Heritage Foundation to be disbanded.

The Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, Israel Hofshit ("Be Free Israel"), Kolech, the Center for Women's Justice, the Yaakov Herzog Center, Hiddush – the Association for Religious Freedom and Equality, and the Women of the Wall all signed the petition.

The Reform Movement told Ynet that it decided to file the petition after increasing haredi modesty demands had turned the entire Western Wall Plaza into “a haredi prayer site.”

“Unlike in the past, men and women can no longer hold joint activities or hold a non-religious ceremony at the Western Wall plaza,” a movement spokesperson told Ynet.

The government allows the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit it created, to run the site – which is of great historical, cultural and religious importance to non-Orthodox Jews as well haredim and the Orthodox.

The petitioners note that the Western Wall Heritage Foundation is controlled by Orthodox Jews and haredim.

Even so, the Foundation’s website describes a seemingly pluralistic mission for the Foundation:

“…In 1988, the government of Israel established the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. The Foundation's objective is to convey to all segments of the Jewish people the values inherent in the heritage of the Western Wall, to preserve and develop the Western Wall and its Tunnels, and to develop educational frameworks that make Jews everywhere feel closer to Jerusalem.…

The Western Wall, to which Jews everywhere turn in prayer, belongs to us all.  We are all links in the Jewish chain of generations that began here in Jerusalem, on Mount Moriah, the Temple Mount.  The Western Wall Heritage Foundation seeks to make that connection come alive by reminding us all that we are linked to each other, to our heritage, and to our Jerusalem.”

The Foundation maintains the plaza surrounding the Kotel and has renovated a large part of it, including “paving and expanding the plaza, preserving the stones of the Wall, and preparing the Western Wall Tunnels for the close to 3 million visitors who have, so far, been awed by them,” the Foundation claims.

It works “in conjunction with other government organizations, religious authorities, and archeologists in the continued exploration of our past through meticulous excavations,” it says.

The Foundation also claims to have “programs suited for every age, from 1st grade to adults, and for every population from soldiers and new immigrants in Israel, to Hebrew teachers in the Ukraine and campers in the United States.  We offer six different programs for Bar and Bat Mitzva children, both in and out of Israel.”

The Foundation’s website makes it clear, however, that non-Orthodox ceremonies and prayer services are not supported by the Foundation.

“Celebrating a bat mitzvah at the Western Wall is one of the more difficult issues that we deal with here, at the Western Wall. As opposed to the bar mitzvah which includes reciting the blessings for the Torah reading, putting on phylacteries, the bat mitzvah is neglected.

“The Western Wall grants a certificate but we don’t have an appropriate ceremony. You have the option to coordinate a tour of the Kotel Tunnels (there is an option for the bat mitzvah girl to guide it herself with proper preparation with a bar mitzvah guide) or the Generations Center, and you can arrange for a tour in the City of David with a 3D performance or in the Time Elevator close to the center of town,” the Foundation’s website admits.

The Foundation also notes that, “the Western Wall Heritage Foundation does not provide assistance, logistical help with a Torah scroll and Siddurs (prayer books), or a Bar Mitzvah Guide” for families who choose to have a non-Orthodox bar mitzvah ceremony at the Davidson Center adjacent to Robinson’s Arch – the area designated for non-Orthodox prayer services.

The petitioners want the Foundation to be disbanded.

In its place, they seek the establishment of a different body that would grant equal representation to women and the non-Orthodox “streams” of Judaism. And they also want the Kotel’s haredi rabbi, Shmuel Rabinowitz, removed.

Rabinowitz presided over the Kotel as increasingly harsh attacks on non-Orthodox and women worshippers took place.

"In recent years we are witnessing a trend of growing radicalization in the Western Wall. Large areas of the plaza, which were open to both men and women in the past, have been separated.

"Modesty usherettes have been stationed on the site, forcing women to cover themselves with scarves, even when their clothing is not revealing in any way. The Western Wall and its entire plaza has turned into a prayer site of a haredi nature, and non-religious events are hardly ever held there,” the petition reportedly reads.

Even uniformed Israel soldiers visiting the Kotel have been harassed by haredim, and some IDF induction ceremonies that once were held in the plaza have been discontinued due to haredi complaints and threats.
 
Diaspora Jewish organizations have already warned Netanyahu and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky that the treatment of non-Orthodox Jews at the Kotel would likely impact the support given to Israel by Diaspora Jews.

In order to thwart haredi violence and civil unrest, several years ago the High Court of Justice blocked women from wearing tallits, prayer shawls, at the Kotel and from reading from Torah scrolls there, even though both practices are permitted to women by halakha, Jewish law.

But at the same time, it ordered the government to find and equal and fair solution for non-Orthodox groups and women to pray at the holy site.

The government set up a small prayer for the pluralist groups in an unused area farther down the wall known as Robinson’s Arch. But the site is in no way equal to the Kotel proper and the government made no serious attempt to make it so.
 
Sharansky – recently asked by Netanyahu to handle the crisis – wants to upgrade the Robinson's Arch site, and is trying to broker a deal with the pluralistic groups to accept that as a solution.

It is unlikely that the pluralistic groups – after years of harassment by haredim, Rabinowitz’s Kotel guards and police, and after years of neglect by Israel’s government – will accept that very belated (and in their view, very inadequate) offer.

Comments

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if the law does not pass or if the country does not do anything about the issues .

i'll advice secular ppl who come to the kotel to carry a gun ready to use if any haredi approach them and shoot them in the leg . that way, they won't be able to walk to normal, decent, honest secular ppl to harass them .

This is funny.
The only reason the Kotel has any sanctity is because it was the wall of the Temple behind it. The Temple itself was meant for worship of God according to strict rules.
So secularists would have wanted nothing to do with the Temple. But they want the Wall!
The Reformers would have rejected all the rituals in the Temple and probably been horrified by animal sacrifice. But they want the Wall!

a jew is a jew is a jew...
i fear the secular and pluralistic among us
may be acting more jewish than the hasidim.
the hasidim have to realize THEY are NOT g-d.

Why should anything from those who run the plaza make any sense. They say the Wall is just a wall, it's not holy. But they also treat it as if it is the Temple itself.
Then they push the women down to the far end of the Wall and say, "hey, this is just as good, why complain?" And also say, "it's my way or the highway. We'll run it in any discriminatory way we want to."

Apologies to: Michael Jackson — Off The Wall:

With your tallis on your shoulder
Gotta stand up when the torah comes around
If you can't hang with the menfolk
Then there ain't no room for you this part of town
'Cause we're the frummie people night and day
Livin' crazy that's the toyreh way

Chorus:
So tonight gotta leave that siddur upon the shelf
And just pray by yourself
Nu, let the madness of the rabbis get to you
Davening ain't so bad at all
If you pray it off the Wall
Davening ain't so bad at all (liturgy off the Wall)
Liturgy off the Wall (liturgy off the Wall)

You can shout out all you want to
'Cause there ain't no sin in Karlin-Stolin's crowd
[Hasidim who shout during prayer]
If the women wanna join in
Then it's Kol Isha and that will bring a frown
'Cause we're the frummie people night and day
Livin' crazy that's the toyreh way

Chorus

Do what they tell you to
There are many rules it's not up to you (many rules & it's not up to you)
It's time to give up your life
And learn on right through the night (all right)

[To women:]
Gotta hide your bag o'tefillin
Gotta let that shul lose faith inside your soul
Want to pray with great devotion
Better do it now before you're getting stoned
'Cause we're the frummie people night and day
Livin' crazy that's the toyreh way

Chorus 2x.

Good one YL. I took the easy way out.


("Another Brick In the Wall, Part II", Pink Floyd
Yes I know he's anti-Israel)

We don’t need no secular education
We love our Rabbi’s thought control
We learn our Torah in the classroom
Society, leave our kids alone
Hey society, leave our kids alone
We insist we run the entire Western Wall.
We insist on running the entire Western Wall.

We don’t need no secular education
We love our Rabbi’s thought control
We learn our Torah in the classroom
Society, leave our kids alone
Hey society, leave our kids alone
We insist we run the entire Western Wall.
We insist on running the entire Western Wall.


Wrong, women, do it again.
If you don’t read Torah our way, you can’t do anything.
How can you do anything if you don’t read Torah our way?
You! Yes, you at the Kotel, stand still lady!

Sarek: Thanks. I did a parody of that song before. I try not to do the same song twice.

Could someone please explain to me how bowing and praying to stones (built by a sick motherf*cker named Herod) is NOT idolatry?

Nice YL, Sarek.

Should turn the Plaza and Kotel over to the National Parks Department

Could someone please explain to me how bowing and praying to stones (built by a sick motherf*cker named Herod) is NOT idolatry?

Posted by: danny | January 09, 2013 at 01:58 PM

The stones in and of itself have no powers. They did not create man or the universe and play no role in the world to come. The wall represents and helps demark the place of holiness.

Don't get too hung up on how a ceremony is performed. Like standing up and placing ones hand over the heart when a piece of fabric imprinted with the stars and stripes of our country coupled with an individual singing the Star Spangled Banner. There is only one god recognized in the US and that is "The Almighty Dollar"; "The Holy buck". This is clearly proclaimed in countless documents known as dollar bills where it states "In God We Trust". What people will do to get their hands on this holy piece of paper is mind boggling!

Garnel,
I am right of Conservative and left of Orthodox, but I definitely pray for the restoration of the Temple, or the 3rd Temple. I am not sure I am not the only non-Orthodox Jew who prays for the restoration of the Temple.

The wall represents and helps demark the place of holiness.
--------------------------

If G-d created the earth, the entire earth is holy...not just some temple wall made by men's hands.

What in the world are you people talking abut?
The western wall tunnel tours are co-Ed , (under the WWHF)
The western wall plaza has done major renovations over the last few years, does anyone remember what Wilson's arch used to look like? What the restrooms used to look like? Has anyone seen the generations center ( co ed as well)which won an international "thea" prize for best audio/ visual exhibit(Guess what? They were done by secularists who were hired by the Western Wall Foundation)
It is unreasonable to think woman will be allowed to hold prayer groups at the Kotel since the Kotel has been a synagogue it has always used the orthodox tradition, the compromise was reached a few years back , which resulted in robinsons arch.......so please tell me who is being unreasonable

I agree with Dave. Every religion needs its focal point, or sacred space. The Muslims have the Ka'aba in Mecca, the Catholics the Vatican, the Anglican/Episcopalians have Canterbury, Hindus and Buddhists have many important shrines, etc. It only becomes idolatry when you pray to the structure instead of simply being inspired by the structure. I would like a Temple w/o animal sacrifices, like the Rambam envisions, as a great synagogue and shrine for the Jewish people. However, it is impossible to do that now, so I'll settle on the Kotel, even though davening there is like talking to a wall.

Garnel- The most obvious point here is that the wall is not an Orthodox synagogue.

The most frustrating part about this is when R. Rabinovitch tries to present himself as a well-meaning and much put-upon moderator, instead of what he actually is, a partisan with his own agenda who happens to be in charge.

I for one question why "Kotel rabbi" should even be a position. Why not run it by committee, with proportionate representation given to each social stream? The Haredim are about 10% of the Jewish population so they could get one representative. Hilonim are about 50%, so they could get five seats, and then Dati Leumi, Masorti, and so on. Alternately, you could put major kotel issues to a referendum vote. Or at the very least, make the position an electable office so there was some competition and turn-over built into it, instead of the government appointing them for life.

What stinks here is that the politicians don't care about this issue except to use it as a political football, and average Israelis have many other things on their plate, so in the meantime the status quo can continue into perpetuity. When people do challenge the status quo (or R. Rabinovitch), they are shouted down as wackos and malcontents. Regardless of people's different positions on the Women of the Wall or the politics of prayer, surely we can agree that there are better ways to run one of the holiest sites in Judaism.

Every religion needs its focal point, or sacred space. ... the Anglican/Episcopalians have Canterbury ...

I am a priest ordained in the Holy orders of the Church of England. As such I find Yochanan Lavie's assertion to be totally fallacious, unfortunately.

Unlike some other religions, Christians believe that God and His Son, Jesus, are always in the hearts and minds of each and every believer. This makes an "official" focus totally unnecessary.

The Church of England prays at each of its services for the welfare of all believers in God. This includes, of course, Jews of all denominations and gradations of belief. You, Yochanan Lavie, will be in my prayers later this evening when I say Vespers.

Yours in Christ Jesus,

George

George, are you for real?

If xtians believe that G-d and G-d's alleged offspring:
-- "are always in the hearts and minds of each and every believer," and
-- at each and every service the Church of England (which I guess means each and every individual therein, en masse, even with no "official" focus) prays for the "welfare" of all believers in G-d, and
--- that includes each and every Jew who has "belief"

then, do you pray for the welfare of Jews
1) that our belief "gradation" will decline to include the belief in your G-d/kid scenario?
2) that we remain Jewish, i.e. pre G-d/kid fork in the road?

Finally, why do you not pray for anyone that doesn't believe in G-d, including Jews? What is that, an "official" non-focus?

Please do not determine my welfare or pray for me.

Dear dh

Indeed I and the God I serve are most definitely "for real" as you put it - even for you.

You have clumsily tried to shift the focus of my response to Yochanan on "the (physical) focus" of the various religions he mentioned to suit your own ends. Nevertheless, the Holy Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit remains concerned for the souls and the welfare of each of Its creations.

It follows, therefore, that the Church does not pray exclusively for the Jews - or the Hindus, or the Christians. The church is both catholic - with a small "c" - and universal. We pray for the welfare of all mankind, as I sincerely hope is the case in every synagogue. After all, we do worship the same God, but in different ways and using different words.

Does that answer your questions dh?

Yours always in Christ Jesus

George

Please do not determine my welfare or pray for me.

Posted by: dh | January 10, 2013 at 01:10 PM

That is rude, clumsy and completely uncalled for, dh.

Are you really so scared of someone from another faith showing care and concern for you? Perhaps you think that your tyra yiddishe neshumeh will somehow be tainted by George's prayers?

If the answer to either or both of those questions is "yes" then boy, oh boy, are you unsure of yourself!

George, a friendly tip. This:

Yours always in Christ Jesus

is a little inappropriate on a Jewish site, and won't endear you to the regulars here.

George, no, you didn't answer my questions. And btw I am not one of "its" creations.

Darth,
Question 1: No. George is in no way showing caring and concern for me. Perhaps you. Not me.
Question 2: Absolutely.

If the guy wants to sign his messages his way then who are we to object? He clearly means no offense and I for one could not detect any malice in his words.

There does appear to be a lot of self-doubt, uncertainty and self-confidence here.

CORRECTION

The second sentence of my last message should read "There does appear to be a lot of self-doubt, uncertainty and a lack of self-confidence here".

Oh wait, I rudely forgot to sign off:

Yours in Jesus was not a christ,

dh

Now, now, dh: do try to rise above the lowest common denominator of fortuitous insults that seem to pervade the readers' comments on this web site. All it does is to highlight the paucity of your intellect.

Instead, show just a little דרך ארץ to another human being, a representative of another faith, whose very last consideration is to steal your Jewish soul, but rather to try to enter into some sort of dialog with you (and others).

All in all, dh, when it came to HaShem handing out communication skills and diplomacy clearly you must have been engaged elsewhere.

And before you, or any other Jewish zealot, mentions it no I am not George's keeper.

If the guy wants to sign his messages his way then who are we to object?

I don't much care, but it has to do with being a guest in someone else's home. It's a matter of politeness.

I wouldn't go to a Christian blog and attempt to rub their noses in the fact that I don't believe Jesus was the Messiah. By the same token, I wouldn't go to a Haredi blog and start belaboring the fact that I don't "hold by" Torah M'Sinai (if there were any Haredi blogs, which there aren't, as everyone knows the Internet is assur).

Jeff do you really, in your heart of hearts, consider www.failedmessiah.typepad.com to be "a Haredi blog"?

I ask because - if it is - the behavior of many of the commentators in their יחס towards Shmarya in particular and towards other commentators in general is more reminiscent of a rowdy four-ale bar in Dublin on a Saturday night than a heilige "Haredi blog".

For once, just this once, you had a גר בשעריך and all you could do was to be downright rude, boorish and coarse. No wonder there is still anti-Semitism in the world.

George, on the other hand, will probably "turn the other cheek" as prescribed by his God - but in his heart of hearts he would be perfectly entitled to think "fuck the Jews".

And given the reception so-called - but self-proclaimed - "Haredi Jews" have given him here who could blame him?

Not me. But you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself.

Darth, he and the "it" suffocate souls by proclaiming here, in total denigration of his audience, that the "it" created us and therefore he will pray for us. Horseshit. That's praying about us but not for us, or for me anyway.

"All in all, dh, when it came to HaShem handing out communication skills and diplomacy clearly you must have been engaged elsewhere." Yes true, 100%, I was. I was working on my paucity. Unlike George, the "it."

Posted by: Darth Zeidah | January 10, 2013 at 04:20 PM

You completely misunderstood me. I mean, the level at which you misunderstood me is monumental. I am utterly stupefied. I am at a loss to explain how you could read what I typed, and come away with what you apparently did. This is cluelessness on the level of some of the frum trolls.

It's come to a point at which I can't stomach my allies on this blog any more than I can the people to whom I'm opposed. First, dh posts the contents of a private email, then tries to behave as though it never occurred - and now this.

I have no idea of what is going on here any longer. The frum trolls appear to have brought down everyone's IQ.

" No wonder there is still anti-Semitism in the world."

Nah, Darth. The reason there is anti-semitism in the world is because of the most dangerous kind, in the form of George.

His deep clawing anti-semitism is passive. It's the kind that is comfortable entering this blog, published by this man, for his audience.

George is so fundamentally bereft of human kindness and understanding as to spew the insulting defecation that he dropped on us here - that's the antisemitism we have to watch out for. That's what needs to be exposed. The other kind we can clearly see. We know what that looks like.

But George is the beast. He's the gorilla in this war.

"dh posts the contents of a private email, then tries to behave as though it never occurred" Jeff

Jeff, the email you sent to me wasn't private. You may, or may not have assumed that.

Further, if I posted it in this additional forum where you chose not to carry on our conversation, then how can I behave as though it never occurred?

Are you kidding me? ANY email between two people is private. I mean, I'm smacking myself in the head as I'm reading what you just wrote.

You really don't get it. Your behavior was completely inappropriate. Frankly, Shamrya should have banned you for it.

And speaking of Shmarya, I don't know how he reads this drivel day after day without going mad. Apart from about half a dozen of you, I can't abide anyone here on either side of the fence.

Is EVERYONE on this blog a goddamn imbecile?

Not to beat a dead horse, but I cannot get my mind around your last comment. It is utterly inconceivable to me that a human being who lives, breathes and gets up and goes to work in the morning could make a statement like that. I'm completely dumfounded.

Sorry Jeff, but that email address didn't even have my name. Logistically it is often necessary for me to have an assistant sort through and forward to me certain items, particularly when things are in the planning stages.

It seems as though you may think lack of propriety should be claimed only by commenters other than Jeff. Could this be true?

Do you, Jeff, live, breath and get up and go to work in the morning? I hope that you will again someday. Let me know then if you remain dumbfounded.

No, Jeff, not everyone commenting on this blog is an imbecile. That's just your mindset. You could be missing much that you would enjoy. You could even learn some stuff from imbeciles.

You also presuppose that Shmarya has not already gone mad.

Father, forgive them ...

"Sorry Jeff, but that email address didn't even have my name. Logistically it is often necessary for me to have an assistant sort through and forward to me certain items, particularly when things are in the planning stages."

A clear case of folies de grandeur if ever I saw one.

George, now that's folies de stupidité.


G-d, forgive George-it. They should have stopped and asked directions.

"George, now that's folies de stupidité.


G-d, forgive George-it. They should have stopped and asked directions.

Posted by: dh | January 10, 2013 at 07:36 PM

Do keep up, dh. I am Darth Zeidah, and not George.

Where was your "assistant" to "sort through" for you?

I was speaking to George, not you. Full of yourself much? It was stupid of him to say that crap about his dad forgiving us.

Now, please try to control your temper, dh - especially and particularly on a public web site. Such tantrums neither endear you to your readers, nor do they boost your credibility.

First you have a spat over a contentious e-mail, then you tell a person who is clearly nisht inter fun unzerer but who came to this web site with the best of intentions that he is stupid (a really scintillating comment, that).

You may not have noticed it, dh, but George quit in disgust at 7:06 PM.

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