[M]aking the battle for the Kotel more concrete for Israelis, might require a more severe measure – one that was raised in conversations among the leaders: to begin a civil resistance-style fight on the ground. That is, to send groups of progressive Jews to the Kotel to pray in mixed groups. Reform and Conservative prayers at the northern plaza of the Kotel.
Just imagine this scenario: a group of American, Canadian, and Israeli Jews coming to the Kotel – say 200 strong – and beginning to daven in such a way. The other Jews at the scene react with fury. The police get involved to prevent violence. Cameras click. Videos are posted. A PR disaster for Israel. Jewish worshipers at the Kotel humiliated by other Jews, dragged by the police of the Jewish State, sweating and crying under the August sun – when all they want to do is pray as Jews do all around the world. And the next day, another group, and the next one, another one. If the movements can convince Jews who come to Israel during the summer to sacrifice one day and risk some inconvenience to do that, the “emergency” will become a two-way emergency.
It could be quite a moment for all parties involved. For progressive Jews, who would walk the walk in an attempt to change Israel. For Israeli Jews, who would see how important this is to their fellow Jews. For the government of Israel, which would need to decide whether it truly wants Israel to be a place where all Jews can practice Judaism. For Haredis, who would understand that there are other Jews to be considered. It could be an educational drama that has the potential of changing the conversation about Jewish partnership for both US Jews and Israeli Jews.
If you ask the Prime Minister, he’d probably tell you that this is not a good idea. Too extreme, to aggressive, too risky. But in fact, if Netanyahu is truly committed to the Kotel plan as he said he is, it is a good idea. It is an idea that could help him sell the compromise to his Haredi coalition partners. It is an idea that could help him transcend the politics-as-usual that put the deal on hold. It is an idea that could help him be the leader at the center – holding the Jewish people together by strong-arming a compromise on all parties. Done properly, it is an idea that could make Israel a better place. Done properly, it is an idea that could make progressive Judaism’s involvement with Israel more fruitful.
And it is not that difficult to put such a plan together – that is, if the issue is truly important not just to the leaders that were at the meeting yesterday, but also to the many thousands of Jews for whom they presumably speak.