Rabbi Sol Solomon’s Rabbinical Reflection #147 (7/9/17) – Wailing Wall
Aired July 9, 2017 on Dave’s Gone By. Youtube: https://youtu.be/r32HoGBoRYY
Shalom Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of July 9, 2017.
It is no secret that I love Israel. If I were to make a list of things I love, Israel would be number three, right after hot pastrami sandwiches and hot Natalie Portman. What can I say? I like sex and sandwiches. But Israel comes third—higher, even, than my wife and family, who come a distant fourth. And because I love Eretz Yisroel, I have railed many times against those who criticize the country for its treatment of the Palestinians—who do not belong IN Israel if they don’t follow the rules—and against those who bitch that America spends too much money on Israel. Because, you know, Israel’s Arab neighbors are such a friendly lot and have done so much good for us.
All that said, the past week has been a painful one for Zionistas like myself. First of all, we were reminded that Israeli politicians aren’t perfect when former Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, was released from prison after serving 16 months for taking bribes. Far be it from me to pass judgment on someone succumbing to the temptation of taking a money-stuffed envelope; heck, you could bribe ME with a stuffed cabbage. But we expect more of our leaders and doubly more of our Israeli leaders. If Israelis wanted to be saddled with a corrupt politician who cared only for himself, they’d move to New Jersey.
But Olmert is old news; the new news is the internal fight, in Jerusalem, over the Wailing Wall. See, everyone can pray at the wall of the great temple; they just can’t pray together. Men can daven in one section, and women can pray in a smaller area by the parking lot that’s also too close to the elevator and the ice machine.
A year and a half ago, secular leaders from the U.S. and Israel met with current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and begged him to create a nook by the Western Wall where gentlemen and ladies could pray together. Not the whole wall, just a portion that would no longer be segregated by sex or gender.
Feminists, liberals, reform Jews, reconstructionists, and deconstructionists like myself welcomed the compromise. It would keep Israel in the modern era and also make it easier for families and tourists to nag each other in the same place at the same time. So in 2017, who could object to this? The ultra-Orthodox, that’s who. This politically formidable and staunchly conservative group, who were key in keeping Netanyahu in power, will accept absolutely no compromises: women on one side, men on the other, Caitlin Jenner in the basement. The chassids forced Netanyahu to reneg on his deal, which infuriated all the moderates. As David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee put it, “The Kotel belongs to all Jews worldwide, not to a self-appointed segment.”
To be fair, Jews everywhere count on the uber-Orthodox to keep the faith—literally. With so much assimilation and intermarriage and pressure to be a nationalist first and a Jew second—it’s kind of nice to have a bunch of yidlach still living in the 19th century, resisting modernity, and reminding us there’s a core of bible-based tenets that have carried us for 5,000 years. Let’s face it, the Amish are ridiculous, but they make the best pretzels and furniture, so we’d miss `em if they all packed up and moved to rumspringa.
But Israel was not created by America and the U.N. solely as a place for black hatters to study Talmud and suck down welfare. Eretz Yisroel was founded as a refuge for all Jews, blown sideways by the diaspora, decimated by the Holocaust, and crying for a safe homeland in the place the Torah says we came from. Among all those Jews, some work on Saturdays. Some like a ham sandwich. Some even intermarry or listen to Mannheim Steamroller. To disregard the lifestyles of these people as not being Jewish enough for Jerusalem smacks of reverse discrimination. Worse, American Jewish groups worry that Netanyahu’s bowing to a tiny segment of his population could drive a wedge between secular American Jews and Israel. Already, mega-philanthropist, Ike Fisher, a real-estate tycoon and AIPAC poobah, has suspended donations to the country because of what he calls this quotes “act of contempt.” That’s millions of dollars at stake, folks. Dollars that could be paving Israeli roads, providing health care, building me a satellite shul in Haifa—hey, a guy can dream, right?
So I must join with other Rabbis of my persuasion in objecting to this reversal by Prime Minister Netanyahu and his kowtowing to an obdurate faction: a group so right wing, they make the Tea Party look like SDS. And look, in the grand scheme of things, it’s really not such a big deal to ask men and women coming to the holiest place on earth, to stand a few yards away from each other. I mean, when you go to the gym, do you share the same locker room? No! Much as I would like to. But it’s the principle of the thing. Jews are not a monolith. We come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and curves. Favoring one sex over another, however subtly, is just not in keeping with the egalitarian spirit of a people who know all too much about arbitrary separation.
So Benjamin, Benyamin, Benjy, Benihana: do what’s right for Israel, rather than just for your career: let men and women pray together in Jerusalem. If God doesn’t like it, He can shake the wall and spit out the little pieces of paper. Or just move the wall to the U.S./Mexican border and kill two birds with one stone. Well, a thousand stones, but you get my drift.
This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches, in Great Neck, New York.
(c) 2017 TotalTheater. All rights reserved.