Modern Orthodox need to disassociate themselves from the Haredi rabbinate now running the Western Wall
Modern Orthodox’s leadership was held back by fear that if they criticized the authorities at the Wall, the Women of the Wall would get their way and Modern Orthodoxy would be accused internally of having enabled a victory of liberal Judaism over Orthodox religious practice. Now that Sharansky has proposed a way in which justice is done but there are no losers, the Modern Orthodox establishment should strongly support the plan – and separate itself from the current Kotel leadership.Rabinowitz and the police should be ashamed of themselves for the luridly poor example they've set, which doesn't help Israel's worldwide image. And modern Orthodoxy does owe an apology for remaining quiet and not decrying such horrific acts. It brings to mind that if there's something any of the detractors of the Women of the Wall have failed to address, it's whether arresting women for committing a thoughtcrime is appropriate. That's one more reason why I think Keren Sper-Hirschhorn owes an apology of her own for failing to address something I'd think would be so simple, yet she failed even that much.
First of all, Modern Orthodox should make clear that they affirm that the Kotel is the sacred space of the entire Jewish people and not a haredi synagogue where only haredi social norms should be followed. The Kotel existed before the synagogue became the institution of prayer and service of God. The Wall is an historical treasure of the whole nation. The majority of the Jewish people is not observant – yet they have a legitimate share in this national icon, not to mention a full right to be there. Part of the Sharansky solution is to take back the Wall Plaza for secular national programs, for IDF dedication ceremonies, etc. – many of which have stopped being held there because of haredi restrictions on women’s presence, visibility and singing as well as on head covering, etc.
The Modern Orthodox should also dissociate themselves from the haredi suppression of women’s services. By excluding liberal services in general, the haredim have pitted Israel’s commitment to being Jewish against its commitment to democracy. It was wrong to do this. There are tensions built in the relationship of Judaism and democracy. These tensions should and can be minimized by sensitivity and flexibility in practice and by respecting minority rights. Instead the conflict was aggravated by exploiting Orthodoxy’s established status and its majority support in Israel to override the rights and needs of the liberal minority and of the Women of the Wall. Currently a majority of Israelis deem Orthodoxy to be the authentic brand of Judaism – even if they are personally non-observant. Therefore, they tolerated the unequal treatment of liberal Jews. But this trampled the rights of non-Orthodox Jews and offended many Jews, especially in the diaspora.
Secondly, the authorities committed a Chillul Hashem [a desecration of God’s name] by prodding the police to arrest women for wearing a tallit or carrying a Torah, and threatening to arrest them for reciting Kaddish. This flagrant foul was infamously aggravated by the strip-search inflicted on Anat Hoffman, leader of the Women of the Wall. Essentially, the haredim pressed for these arrests for their own ‘convenience’, i.e. not to be disturbed. The arrests have left a permanent mark of shame: in the Jewish state, Jews were arrested for exercising their religious freedom to worship God.
These wrong actions were raised to the level of reckless endangerment in that these arrests were trumpeted around the world by Israel’s enemies as proof that the Jewish state is governed by a theocracy that oppresses women. The main line of Israel’s defense and support in the West is the recognition that Israel is a genuine democracy whereas its enemies represent despotic societies that mistreat women and religious minorities. By giving some appearance of truth to claims that Israel mistreats women and religious minorities, these authorities have struck a blow at the foundations of Israel’s security.
Nor does Rabinowitz seem particularly apologetic, and has recently hinted he may be reneging upon his willingness to allow an egalitarian prayer section to be set up, and worse, he's hinting at violence:
Earlier this month, Rabinowitz said he "can live with" the Sharanksy compromise. "This re-division of the plaza does not match my worldview, as I believe that there should be one site of prayer according to the place's customs, but we can live with this solution," Rabinowitz told Ynet.Is he suggesting that Haredis make things worse by brawling over mere prayer customs? What he's doing risks making Haredis look almost as bad as Islamists who riot. It's bad enough if jihadists do that. Haredis acting the same way towards their fellow Jews would only make things more horrific, and constitute a Chillul Hashem, as Greenberg said above. Let us be clear: women's prayers, no matter what sect they belong to in Judaism, is not worth rioting about and won't cause the Old City to collapse. I think there's grounds to file a complaint against Rabinowitz for signaling he's ready and willing to call for violence. Besides, the WoW have plenty of Orthodox women in their group, and if so, then his hostility is just as much against them as it is against Reform and Conservative Judaism, the latter which my family once adhered to.
But Rabinowitz's tone appears to have hardened following meetings with Orthodox rabbis in North America -- whom Rabinowitz said oppose Sharansky's proposal -- and in the wake of a court ruling this week that women's prayer in the existing women's section of the Western Wall Plaza should not be abridged.
"I will fight wholeheartedly against any harm to the holiness of the Western Wall, and I will not allow the slightest deviation from what is and has been customary at the site for decades," the statement said. Any change "will face strong opposition and bring about a civil war."