But separating the sexes has long ago become the practice at the Kotel. There is now a mechitza there. This is how the holiest site in Israel is treated now. I suppose that it is better that way since during busy times like Birchat Kohanim (blessing of the priests) on Yomim Tovim (holidays) – it can be pretty crowded and having men and women squeeze together at the Kotel is not the best way to pray. But in my view it is not Halachicly necessary to separate the sexes for purposes of prayer at the Kotel.
And yet, in theory I oppose an egalitarian minyan at the Kotel. Not because there is anything wrong with men and women davening in the same place. But because it makes a religious ritual out of it. To put the stamp of religion on the practices which take place in egalitarian minyanim that are against Halacha (e.g. including women in the count for a Minyan) cannot be anything that a Halachic Jew can agree with. To do so at Judaism’s holiest site just adds insult to injury. Also, giving heterodoxy any kind of imprimatur by the government lends legitimacy to them which I certainly do not support.
That said I am also a seeker of peace. Opening up Robison’s Arch for egalitarian purposes will help solve the growing conflict between Orthodox Jews and Heterodox Jews. I would therefore not physically protest Israel’s secular government for establishing it. Egalitarian minyanim at Robinson’s Arch would not disrupt the people who choose to worship in traditional non egalitarian ways at the main Kotel plaza. Each group would have their own separate but equal access to Judaism’s holiest site.
What about standing up for my beliefs? I empathize somewhat with Rabbi Avi Shafran’s take. And like him I still oppose what they do and will continue to say so (as I just have). At the same time public protests at the site would only generate more enmity and I oppose that (not that R’ Avi has suggested that it should be publicly protested). That is not good for anyone. I will instead leave it for moshiach’s times to sort it all out. Until then I think it is to the benefit of all to try and have peace among ourselves and not fight unwinnable internal wars.
WoW would hopefully also take advantage of this new site for their own purposes… and Shalom Al Yisrael… we can have peace in our time (at least among ourselves – at least on this issue). Unfortunately there are other problems unrelated to interdenominational differences that may scuttle the deal anyway. Like opposition from the Waqf — the Muslim body that controls the Temple Mount. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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