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    Whose wall is it?

    Letter to the editor published in the Jerusalem Post, 6 October 2016:

    With regard to “Violent fracas breaks out at Western Wall during progressive prayer rally” (November 3), the unpleasant scenes bring nobody credit, but they reinforce the wisdom of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein’s dictum that there is a difference between genuine spirituality and love of God, on the one hand, and making a militant statement, on the other.

    At the Kotel, people ought to be experiencing the presence of God and the love of His word.

    Both are compromised when they shout and hurl insults at each other, and one group tries to wrest the Torah from the other.

    The non-Orthodox say the Orthodox are turning the Western Wall into an Orthodox synagogue; the Orthodox say the non-Orthodox are desecrating the holy site. What next? Will the wrestling turn into boxing? There is an established tradition at the Kotel, that men and women pray separately. No one has any right or reason to change that. Further, it satisfies the truly pious who come there to pray at all hours of every day and night of the year.

    A compromise was accepted some months ago. There were grumbles, but pragmatism won out. The Orthodox would have their status quo; the non-Orthodox would have their separate area. The Orthodox would not be legitimizing the others; the non-Orthodox would not be disenfranchising established tradition.

    It should have worked, but then came the issue of what entrance gate would be used by the non-Orthodox. It sounded like a petty problem, but it had a genuine seriousness about it: The Orthodox did not want to have to see non-Orthodox people mingling with them in an atmosphere that would upset their conscience, such as inappropriate dress, mixed-gender singing and women carrying Torah scrolls.

    A practical answer is surely not beyond the talents of architects and building planners. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who seems to have become the Minister for Everything, can surely find an adviser to work it out.

    The writer is emeritus rabbi of the Great Synagogue, Sydney.

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