The Western Wall is Supposed to Unify Not Divide

by Avi Abelow

The Western Wall of the Temple Mount is supposed to unify the Jewish people, not divide us. Unfortunately, there are leaders of US Conservative and Reform Jewry who are using it to cause division. This is a very sad development for the Jewish people and for Israel.

Yechezkel Moskowitz is the Director of  He has a powerful heartfelt message for Conservative and Reform Jews who are fighting a legal battle over power at the Western Wall. “I love you, I really do. And I want you to be sensitive to my needs (as an Orthodox Jew, upholding the thousands of years of traditional Jewish life)”.

Yechezkel’s message to his fellow Jews:

Watch the full interview with Yechezkel, conducted at the place of contention, where he discusses the details of this issue.

Temple Mount

The Temple Mount is the holiest place for the Jewish people. Over the centuries, the various occupiers of our homeland forbid Jews from ascending the Temple Mount.  Due to this situation, Jews gravitated to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. It is the closest place Jews can get to the area of the Temple Mount where the Holy of Holies once stood.

For centuries, Jews have dreamt and continue to dream of returning to Jerusalem. When Jews visit Jerusalem, they visit the Western Wall of the Temple Mount.  They pray there and deepen their personal connection with G-d.  Sometimes in the form of prayer, and sometimes by placing a note in the Western Wall itself, or both.

Western Wall Customs

The Western Wall has always been treated as a traditional area for prayer.  It always follows the traditional custom of Judaism, which means that men and women pray separately. Only during Ottoman, and then British, times was the separation not allowed to be there. That was part of the Ottoman Empire’s way to humiliate the Jews, and disrespect us. In addition the Ottomans did not allow any benches to be present at the Western Wall prayer area, and they also forbid us from blowing the shofar, a ram’s horm used as a musical instrument during the Jewish repentence process.

Unfortunately, over the past few years the Conservative and Reform movements have turned the unifying Western Wall into a place of provocation, division and conflict.

Rabbi Rabinowitz, the Rabbi of the Western Wall, spoke at a special presentation on this issue.   He spoke to a group of Agudat Yisrael leaders from America visiting Israel on a “Preserving One Jewish People” mission.

Caroline Glick’s take

Here is the Western Wall issue broken down and explained by journalist Caroline Glick:

A few years ago, Israel opened an egalitarian prayer area on the southern wall of the Temple Mount.  This is adjacent to Robinson’s Arch and the archaeological park. Since then, egalitarian prayers continue there. Women lead services. Women read Torah. They wear talitot and tefillin. This happens every day in the light of day.

Despite this fact, the Women of the Wall kept up their fight that pits US Jews against Israel.  Why?  On the grounds that the entrance to the egalitarian prayer area is from the Dung Gate rather than from the Western Wall prayer plaza. They kept up their protests as well because the area is managed by the same foundation that manages the Western Wall.  They prefer a different group that includes representatives of Reform and Conservative Judaism.

Government Decision

The government agreed back in 2017 to change the management and open the prayer area from the Western Wall in January. But recently, it reversed its decision.  The decision was due to pressure from ultra-Orthodox parties in the coalition.  The government decided to leave things as they are with the entrance to the egalitarian prayer area at the Dung Gate.  In addition, they maintained the current management arrangements for the area.

I write all of this only to make one point. The huge outcry of American Jewish groups, writers and the Jewish Agency ignore the fact that nothing changed in the egalitarian prayer area. Women and men continue to pray together and women continue to lead prayers and read Torah, etc. at the egalitarian prayer area. Moreover, according to Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett, the egalitarian prayer area is going to be expanded and improved.  He even posted a Hebrew video this morning explaining what the government did yesterday.

Think what you will about the government’s decision. Like it, hate it, as you like.

But whatever you personally think, it is important to know that egalitarian prayer did not end yesterday. It continues unabated as it did yesterday and as it will tomorrow and into the future.

My personal opinion is as follows.  The Jewish Agency’s decision to cancel its invitation to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address its leadership was wrong.

If you believe we are all in this together, then you have to keep talking.  You have to keep listening in a continuous effort to insure the future of the Jewish people. Nothing good comes from Diaspora Jews boycotting the elected leader of the Jewish state.

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