"Over the past few years, I have been under two simultaneous attacks: The conservative zealous camp is attacking me over the fact that I actively support bringing thousands of students and soldiers to the Western Wall, while the liberal zealous camp criticizes my firm stance against the attempts by members of the Women of the Wall group to undermine the Supreme Court's ruling, which upheld a government ban on women wearing tefillin or tallit prayer shawls, or reading from a Torah scroll at the Western Wall."
Zealotry threatens Western Wall
Op-ed: Liberal, conservative fanatics trying to turn Jerusalem holy site into ideological battleground
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz • Ynet
Over the past few years, I have been under two simultaneous attacks: The conservative zealous camp is attacking me over the fact that I actively support bringing thousands of students and soldiers to the Western Wall, while the liberal zealous camp criticizes my firm stance against the attempts by members of the Women of the Wall group to undermine the Supreme Court's ruling, which upheld a government ban on women wearing tefillin or tallit prayer shawls, or reading from a Torah scroll at the Western Wall.
Both of these groups ask – in the name of religious tolerance – that I "take their feelings into consideration." One group urges me to avoid bringing non-religious groups to the Kotel, while the other wants me to allow its members to conduct controversial and unusual ceremonies at the holy site. In the name of tolerance, they are asking that I allow them to turn the Western Wall - maybe the only place that still unites all Jews – into an ideological battlefield.
One of the most insightful stories in the Babylonian Talmud tells of two Jews from Jerusalem – Kamtza and Bar Kamtza. Hatred and public humiliation push Bar Kamtza to devise a plan to take his revenge on all of Jerusalem's Jews by telling the Roman Caesar who controls the region that the Jews were rebelling against him. The Talmud describes how the great sages of Israel deal with Bar Kamtza's plot.
Seemingly, the sages were faced with an easy decision, but then a charismatic sage named Zechariah Ben Avkulas enters the picture and warns that any decision they make will be interpreted incorrectly and turn the nation against them. The sages heed his advice and do not take a stand – thus bringing upon Jerusalem the greatest disaster of all.
Rabbi Yochanan said: "The tolerance displayed by Zechariah Ben Avkulas in refusing to have Bar Kamtza put to death destroyed our Temple, burned down our Sanctuary and exiled us from our land."
This is how fanaticism operates. It asks for protection in the name of tolerance, then thrives and flourishes until it becomes too late to stop the devastation it brings on us all.
I'll say it loud and clear: As long as I am the Western Wall's rabbi, fanaticism will not establish a foothold at the site. The Kotel's stones can teach us about the price of zealotry.
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz is the the Rabbi of the Western Wall and the holy sites
Haredi Rabbi Rabinowitz is creating a false dichotomy.
Put simply, the Wall, the Kotel, does not belong to the haredim. It does not now and it never did.
It belongs to the entire Jewish people.
Haredim insist that halakha should govern what goes on at the Kotel, but they ignore halakha that allows women to wear tallits or put on tefillin (Rashi's daughters did, for example).
Women can read from Torah scrolls for other women – especially in a place like the Kotel, where there is no normal women's section set up where women can easily hear a Torah reading and see what is going on.
In other words, women have halakha on their side.
But haredi men do not.
There is no accepted halakha that bans non-Orthodox men from going to a synagogue to pray, and the idea of banning the very soldiers who liberated the Kotel and who now guard it from also visiting it is obscene.
In truth, Rabinowitz has no real defense for his years of coddling his fellow haredim while he has egged police on, urging them to persecute any woman who dares to to try to pray as Rashi's own daughters did.
Yes, 99% of Orthodox women don't pray that way today – but halakha allows them to if they want to, and that's the point.
Yes, the High Court of Justice rules women can't do those things at the Kotel. But it did so to prevent haredi violence and it did so with the provision that the state set up a workable, equal situation for egalitarian prayer – but the state did not finish doing that. In fact, it barely started, making the High Court's ruling void.
There is nothing more disruptive at the Kotel than a Karliner minyan, a group of hasidim screaming – and I mean this literally – at the top of their lungs, completely unconcerned about who may be trying to pray normally nearby. They are disruptive in the extreme. They are violating explicit halakha. (But heck, it's okay because their rebbe did it.)
But Rabinowitz, his guards, and the police don't do anything about it.
Because Karliners are haredim and their customs – even when they violate explicit halakhot – are "holy."
But women who want to do what Rashi's daughters did?
In Rabinowitz's mind they're liberal "zealots" – or worse.
Rabinowitz's misogyny and the misogyny of the haredi 'gedolim' he answers to can't change the halakhic facts.
The truth is not on their side.