I went to the Western Wall this morning (Wednesday, February 10, 2016) to welcome the new Jewish month (Adar), to support my daughter who is active with Women of the Wall, and to pray.
I had a hard time praying this morning. I feel like all of our arguments – between the ultra-orthodox, Women of the Wall, and now the “original” Women of the Wall – have driven the holy presence into exile.
… [W]hy I do NOT support the “original” Women of the Wall. I’m tired of fighting over space.
A deal has been struck that will create a new area permanent home at the Kotel for pluralistic prayer. You can read more with my views on the deal in my article “Better Seats at the Back of the Bus” on the Jerusalem Postwebsite. The deal provides for a prayer space along the Western Wall NOT under the rules and direction of an ultra-Orthodox rabbi. A place where anyone can come pray however they want – women wearing religious garb such as tallit and tefillin, mixed minyans, minyans of women, minyans of men. A place open to all as long you don’t try and interfere with other people praying how they want to pray.
The “original” Women of the Wall reject this deal and insist that they MUST be allowed to offer their prayers at the existing women’s section. It’s not good enough to have space at the Wall; it has to be at a particular place on the Wall.
I think it was important that forms of Judaism other than ultra-Orthodox have a place at the Kotel. I think that’s a battle that was worth fighting for, because it is a place that is holy to all Jews. And as long as the new plan actually happens, and the new space is equally prominent to the existing space, we will have won a major battle.
But it breaks my heart that some of my friends don’t see this new deal as a “victory,” and they reject it. So they continue to fight for the right of women to pray in one exact spot along the Wall. And I was left feeling like all the fighting and arguing has driven God’s presence away. I did not feel God’s presence while I was trying to pray at the Kotel. All I felt were echoes of arguments.
Now that there is a solution in the works that will allow all Jews to pray at the Western Wall in the fashion in which they prefer, it’s time to work on healing. It’s time to work on love and courtesy and trying to restore a sense of being one people. We need to open our hearts, even at the Western Wall, and let God’s presence in. That’s way more important to feeling God’s presence than which exact spot along the Wall you pray.