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Dealing With Prayer At The Kotel

Dealing With Prayer At The Kotel

Regarding the Sharansky-Mandelblit proposals under current consideration [for equitable prayer at the Western Wall]: any solution that enshrines privilege for and domination by any stream of Jewish worship at the Kotel, or any public, sacred space in Israel, is a terrible, short-sighted policy that will come back and bite us in perpetuity.

Any decision driven by the fear of violence by a lawless sector of society, which flouts the authority and very legitimacy of the State of Israel and its laws, rewards and encourages that violence, rewards the political thinking that sees intimidation as a tactic to gain policy goals, and is an unthinkable mistake for any State run by law. You cannot appease this beast. God forbid that our beloved Israel would make this terrible, historic and undoable mistake. Like any blackmail, this would be the beginning, not the end, of demands for control of the public sphere, indeed, for obliteration of public, that is, neutral, space, under the domination of no segment of society but available equally to all.

The fantasy that appeasing political haredi-ism will bring peace is precisely that. This — attaining permanent, official control of the Kotel, “winning” this one — would be the triumph that sounded the call to further gains. Surely, anyone with a passing familiarity with the reality of haredi politics knows this.

This struggle is a marathon, not a sprint. A near-term fix is very appealing but we must think well beyond near term.

There must be a resolve, once and for all, to settle this issue and all others about the nature of public space in Israel under the principles stated in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which guarantee equal citizenship and equal rights for all. Only this will assure social peace, and a just and rational public policy for Israel.

Jewish Studies and History, Oberlin College

The writer is one of the founders of the Women of the Wall.

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