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Seeking Confrontation at the Kotel

by Shmuel Rosner

May 23, 2013 | 6:42 am

Policemen block orthodox Women at the Western
Wall as Women of the Wall leave the area
photo by Reuters/Amir Cohen

I wrote a long and detailed article for the Jewish Journal’s print edition about the current state of the Women of the Wall issue – and since there’s no point in me upstaging myself, I’m going to suggest that you go read it in full here.

If you’re still hesitating, here’s an appetizer:

Just as Women of the Wall and some of its allies have altered their postures and are focusing on their post-court-ruling tactics, the Orthodox camp has also toughened its language since the ruling. “Along with the Chief Rabbinate and other great rabbis, we must examine if we should oppose the proposal referring to Robinson’s Arch,” Shmuel Rabinowitz, rabbi of the Kotel, said in a statement. Rabinowitz is a slick and well-connected operator — last week he was the rabbi presiding over the much talked-about wedding of Interior Minister Gideon Saar and celebrity TV anchor Geula Even. For him to reconsider his support of Sharansky is probably a calculated move: He does it because he sees more battles ahead.

Sadly, Rabinowitz is probably correct in this assessment. When it comes to religious affairs, the Jews love the battle more than the compromise and seem ready to keep it going. Knesset Member Yitzhak Herzog, the former minister and cabinet secretary, who was intensely involved in the first Kotel compromise (when the Robinson’s Arch area was first cleared for limited religious use about a decade ago), warns that “those who want an uncompromising legal solution to the problem will only lead to unnecessary confrontation.” Alas, Sharansky seems to be the last man standing who doesn’t want confrontation.

If you have already read my article, and are still interested in the way Americans view the WOW issue, I also recommend a bunch of letters to the editor that were posted yesterday by The Jewish Week. Letters one, two, and three all clearly oppose WOW and make some assumptions which aren’t quite accurate regarding the way Israelis see this issue. One simple way of finding out what Israelis think is looking at the polls – and there is a poll from ten days ago about WOW which is easily available:

To what extent do you support or oppose allowing the Women of the Wall to pray at the Western Wall as they see fit?" Public opinion in the Jewish public in general was divided, with a slightly stronger tendency to support the right of the Women of the Wall to pray as they wish (48%) than to oppose the group praying in this manner (38%).

It is still safe to argue though, that those opposing WOW are much more committed in their opposition than the supporters of this cause. While poll numbers speak for WOW, the numbers “on the ground” – i.e., the number of people willing to wake up early in the morning and schlep to the Kotel for a Rosh Chodesh morning prayer – speak for the opposition.

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