February 14, 2013
There’s More Than One Wall at the Western Wall
By M. Alexander
A few days ago, 10 women were arrested in Israel. Their crime?—wearing talits at the Western Wall. I understand that traditional Jewish factions forbid this practice, and Israel must hold fast to its Jewish identity if it is to survive in the Middle East and remain a safe haven for the diaspora. But survival in the modern world means adapting to and embracing change. The Western Wall is arguably the most sacred site in the Jewish World and this is why Israeli authorities have upheld these seemingly antiquated laws.
The Kotel has become a wall of division. It separates religions: the Jewish quarter from the Muslim quarter. It separates time: past temples, a current mosque, and prayers for the future. The wall separates degree of faith: strict observers sway in prayer while secular tourists snap pictures. And it separates men from women; not just with a physical barricade between genders, but also with a law that led to the arrest of 10 women in the midst of prayer and peaceful protest.
These arrests do not protect Judaism. They are contributing to a polarization between Orthodox and Secular and to the disappearance of those in the middle. If Israel is to grow and thrive and if Judaism is to remain relevant, it must embrace the equality of Jewish faith and interpretation. It must be a religion that brings people together rather than tearing them apart. The Western Wall should be a symbol for Judaism—a wall of cohesion rather than one of division.