We once again witnessed the ridiculousness of the separation between men and women at the Western Wall when female journalists were forced to stand on chairs to see US Vice-President Michael Pence pray at the Western Wall during his recent visit. No one, not even the rabbi of the Western Wall, can explain the benefit or importance of this separation of the sexes.
Professor Doron Bar, President of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, describes how during times when Jews did not have access to particular holy sites, they created and ‘discovered’ new ones based in history and in Biblical stories.
Israel’s holy sites have been a destination for pilgrims of many faiths. This week, when we read Parshat Vayishlach, Professor Doron Bar, President of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, shares the stories of two pilgrims to Rachel’s Tomb.
In my book Ideology and Landscape, which is about reinterring Zionist leaders in the homeland, I devoted a chapter to the reburial of Baron Edmond de Rothschild in Ramat Hanadiv. He and his wife Ada (Adelheid) were reinterred there in April 1954 in an imposing public ceremony. An Israeli battleship brought the coffins from Marseille to Haifa, and from there they were transported to the majestic burial estate south of the Carmel.
The Kotel belongs to the entire Jewish people; and “Who is a Jew?” is not an Israeli issue but rather an issue facing Klal Yisrael, the collective Jewish people throughout the world.
The Kotel and conversion laws are ones that deal with intense controversies that divide the Jewish people. Surveys, including one conducted by the Schechter Institutes last month, say that most Jews in Israel are in favor of the Kotel compromise. Thus, even if the government has different stances, they must debate these issues in the light of day and not in secret. They must debate this issue not just when the dominant Haredi ultra-Orthodox voices are present, but also when those opposing Kotel restrictions are present.
62% of Israelis believe that everyone should be allowed to pray at the Kotel in accordance with egalitarian practice and free of any separation between men and women! Only 9.2% believe that non-Orthodox streams and Women of the Wall should be forbidden to pray at the Kotel.
I was born two years prior to the Six-Day War when Jerusalem was still a divided city, with barbed wire and concrete walls separating the two sections. Jerusalem totally changed by the time I grew up. It became a city without borders, an exciting and fascinating place, whose spaces were accessible to everyone. One could experience the city on a personal, one to one basis. My urban encounter spanned the entire city…
In one part of the military cemetery in Jerusalem stands a lone and unusual gravestone, marking the grave of David Raziel, Commander of Etzel (also known as the Irgun, a Zionistparamilitary organization that operated in Mandate Palestine between 1931 and 1948). Not many are aware that this is Raziel’s third resting spot, after he was first interred in a British military cemetery in Iraq and later moved to a Jewish cemetery in Cyprus.