Writer Questions Motives of Women of the Wall

Writer Questions Motives of Women of the Wall

Dear Editor:

The Kotel can be found in the heart of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. It attracks the religious and the curious and is just one of the reason to visit Israel. PHOTO / Gary Feinberg
The Kotel can be found in the heart of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. It attracts the religious and the curious and is the site where the “Women of the Wall” want to congregate and pray. PHOTO / Gary Feinberg

Rabbi Zimmerman portrays a one-dimensional caricature of charedim as evil misogynists who oppress anyone who does not agree with them. The truth is a bit more complex.

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Also, the Kotel is actually not the site of Temple itself but a retaining wall built by Herod the Great to surround the Temple Mount. The actual site of the Temple Mount is the current site of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Kotel gained its significance because an Orthodox rabbi, Rabbi Moses ben Nachman (the Ramban), established a custom of worshipping there because it was the closest he could get to the Temple Mount.

Over the centuries, this Western Wall was venerated by Orthodox Jews, who braved Arab bandits and donkey droppings to worship at a place that local Muslims used to stable their animals. And in 1928, with a growing Zionist population, a decision was made to place a mechitzah, or divider between men and women, at the Kotel.

Thus, the status of this holy site is that of an Orthodox synagogue. And just as Reform and Conservative synagogues have the right to conduct services in the way that they see fit, so do Orthodox synagogues. Efforts at compromise have been made by the government of Israel and Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, and the wall area around Robinson’s Arch – part of the exact same wall as the Kotel – is available for egalitarian services.

Rabbi Zimmerman correctly states that halacha is a dynamic area; I would contend that so is the secular area of cardiology, as it too is constantly changing due to the efforts of experts in the field.

Of course, I’m sure Rabbi Zimmerman would agree that if someone unqualified decides that smoking is good for your heart, it does not represent an advance in cardiology. I propose simply an extension of that principle: If someone who doesn’t subscribe to halacha wants to make an innovation in halacha, he/she lacks credibility.

I agree that throwing stones is a grave sin in Judaism, but another grave sin is fueling disputes that divide the Jewish people that are not for the sake of heaven. One is reminded of words frequently used by the Women of the Wall, derived from the parsha portion Korach:

“The entire community is holy, and G-d is within them; why do you raise yourselves over the congregation of G-d?”

I ask the Women of the Wall: Is your motivation religious freedom, or sticking it to the Orthodox?


Carl Wingate, Berkeley, Calif.


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