September 19, 2019

A Progressive Case for the Status Quo at the Kotel

“The deal would have awarded Robinson’s Arch, the archaeological site on the southern end of the Western Wall, officially to the Reform and Conservative movements as an egalitarian prayer site. Although the site has served as such for decades, the deal would have changed the status of the place officially and awarded the progressive religious movements state funding for its operation. Effectively, this would have given them the official recognition they have long sought, and against which the haredi establishment has fought tooth and nail.

Indeed, to that establishment, very much including the rabbi appointed to administer the Kotel, these movements are “works of Satan.” Why, then, would this establishment ever have agreed to the deal?

The answer is: because, in exchange for changing the status of Robinson’s Arch, making it a synagogue under progressive Jewish auspices, the status of the Kotel was also to change. Its status as atar leumi kadosh – a national holy site of the Jewish people – would be lost. Instead, it would be a synagogue under official haredi control.

All know that the haredi establishment has appropriated this site, turning it by stages into a haredi shrine. But that status is not official. That is what the deal would have done, and that is why the haredi establishment agreed to it, before pressure from its street made it renege.

This part of the deal was kept from public awareness, both in Israel and the Diaspora. But it is not the only far from progressive part of the deal carefully kept from such awareness.

Under the deal, women’s group prayer at the Kotel, which has long had Supreme Court recognition as legal and District Court recognition as “minhag hamakom,” a “custom of the place,” would have been made a criminal offense, punishable by seven years’ imprisonment and heavy fines.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Picks

"Congratulations, Mr. President. It took an extraordinary effort, but you finally managed to spark a serious global crisis. I know you don’t like to share credit, but don’t worry. The current mess in the Middle East centered around Iran is all..."

"We’re approaching the anniversary of one of the nastiest political battles it has been my misfortune to witness—the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court despite credible accusations of sexual harassment and assault and his..."

"There are few one-offs in life on Earth—rarely can a single species boast a trait or ability that no other possesses. But human language is one such oddity. Our ability to use subtle combinations of sounds produced by our vocal cords to create..."

"He walked through the coffee shop door and scanned the crowd. A familiar smile bloomed as he recognized me, despite how my appearance had changed over the years. I’m bald and bearded now, and heavier. I wear an extra decade on my face, and I’m..."

"The poverty rate in the United States fell to 11.8 percent in 2018, according to data released last week by the Census Bureau — the lowest it’s been since 2001. But this estimate significantly understates the extent of economic deprivation in..."

"Streaming is the future of TV. But for now a big part of the streaming business revolves around old TV shows. Latest case in point: Netflix is paying a lot of money for the rights to show Seinfeld to its 150 million subscribers around the world..."

"On the eve of the second Israeli election of 2019, there is no shortage of apocalyptic rhetoric about the potential consequences of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election. From the New York Times' editorial column to The Forward’s..."

"Is there a backlash toward the technology industry in the culture? I tend to think so, having written about its various twists and turns most weekdays for the past couple years now. But sometimes an obsession with a beat can lead to myopia, and..."