at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths
The middle-aged, American man physically pushed me away from his teen-aged son. He was furious! I called out to the teen again to come put on tefillin, and his father got even angrier.
I walked back to my tefillin cart and was helping an Israeli boy when the father walked over. He stood there patiently waiting until I finished with the Israeli and then he started to yell at me. “When you let my wife come to the Kotel wearing a prayer shawl, I will let my son put on tefillin!”
“And should we let her come over here to the men’s side, too?” I asked.
“No, but you, and people like you, are locking up Jewish women for coming to the Kotel wanting to pray!”
He was referring to an article in the news that day. The so-called “Women of the Wall” are suing the Government to be allowed to pray as they see fit at the Kotel.
Presently, the Kotel is supposedly administrated as an Orthodox Jewish prayer site, but it is not. The problem is not as simple as we would like to say. The “Women of the Wall” are coming to the Kotel to provoke…, clear and simple. Many of them were, or are not religious at all, but simply want to insist on “women’s rights”, or to push a left wing, political agenda. Little do they know that orthodox women have far more rights than secular women, but that it a different subject.
The problem is that the majority of the Jews in the world are not orthodox, but the orthodox establishment controls the Kotel. The law was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2003. It stipulates that it is forbidden to conduct a religious ceremony “contrary to accepted practice” at a holy site, or one that may “hurt the feelings of other worshipers.”
This law is not at all enforced, but when it comes to those women who want to go there wearing a tallis (prayer shawl) and tefillin, and reading from their own sefer Torah, the police are instructed to enforce the law. A few times some of the Jewish male hot heads would violently scream at them, making an ugly scene. The women keep coming. It seems that their goal is not prayer, but attention, and politics.
But, at the same time, a large group of some 20 or more black Africans in native dress, or Latin Americans can come to the Kotel, kneel on the ground, jump, shake, and mumble very loudly to yashka…total idol worship, yet the police do nothing. In fact, if a Jew tries to disturb the x-ians, the police take that Jew away!
In the picture above, the rabbi appointed over Israel’s holy sites (including the Kotel) is escorting two well-known, x-ian evangelical pastors from California to the Kotel. The strange shawls they are wearing have the prayers of hundreds of their congregants sewn on them. This is allowed, but the Jewish women who wear prayer shawls are stopped. Surely it is because the women are purposely provoking the authorities trying to change the system, while the x-ians sincerely want to pray, albeit in the name of their idol.
So what is the solution? One political party recommends having the early mornings, noon, and evenings reserved for only Orthodox prayer, and the other hours as the visitors see fit. Sounds nicer than it would work out.
Remember, we are talking about the holiest place in the world where a Jew is presently allowed to go. The only place more holy is the Temple Mount itself, which is on the other side of the Kotel.
Now, that is a great solution. Let the religious (orthodox) go up on the Mount to pray, and make the Kotel into a museum featuring the place where we used to pray. Obviously, the world and the vast majority of the senior rabbis are not ready for this one. So what to do?
Personally, I would like to have the “orthodox” times for prayer, if for no other reason than I really do not like it when we are praying at sunrise and bus loads of non Jewish tourists walk between us, taking our pictures.
Also remember, there is a vast difference in customs between the Orthodox on one hand, and the Conservative and Reform on the other. They cannot pray at the same time and place and follow their own customs.
The Kotel is some 500 meters long. The administration has made the area of the Kotel that is to the direct south of the present women’s side of the prayer area available to all denominations, but the “Women of the Wall” do not like it. They say that they feel like they are being pushed to the back of the bus.
No real easy solution…, but please G-d, they will not make this most special Holy Place more secular than it already is.