web analytics
April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Western Wall’

The Giant and the General

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

My good friends and former employers at Chabad.org have utilized Ariel Sharon ZL’s passing to educate the public about the latter’s relationship with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I’m grateful to them for that, even though their obituary comes close to suggesting that Sharon was a hidden Chabadnik. He really wasn’t, and I don’t think the good people of the Lubavitch News Service believe it either.

But they did remind me of two events in Sharon’s life that came in close proximity and had to have influenced his life.

Right after the Six Day War, Sharon led a group of South African military officers—the bad kind—on a tour of liberated Jerusalem, and stopped at the Western Wall. Lubavitch had just set up their tefillin booth there, and the chassid operating it, Reb Aharon Rabinowitz ZL, a former Soviet prisoner, wanted very much to get Arik to roll up his sleeve for Judaism, but was too timid to ask. And so a religious Jerusalemite journalist named Noach Zevuluni, who was writing for the Histadrut trade union’s daily Davar, approached the general with the request. Arik—reluctantly, according to Zevuluni ZL—acquiesced.

There are apocryphal versions of this story, a noted one in which David Ben Gurion is also in the group and refuses to put on tefillin. Another version gathers the entire IDF leadership for the sake of the anecdote, and Arik’s proud example inspires all of them to wrap the straps. The version I cited above is directly from Zevuluni’s writing. Bottom line is: shortly after the war ended, Sharon put on tefillin at the Kotel.

Then tragedy struck. In October, 1967, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, Sharon’s 11-year-old son Gur and his friend, Yaakov Keren, took down an old hunting rifle belonging to Sharon, that hung on display on the wall. They stuffed gunpowder into the gun, and, during play, Yaakov pointed the barrel at Gur’s head and squeezed the trigger. Arik came rushing to the room to find his son lying unconscious on the floor, bleeding from his head. He picked him up in his arms and drove to the nearest hospital, where the doctors declare him dead. (Sharon continued to blame Yaakov Keren of killing his son intentionally, to the point where the Kerens had to leave the neighborhood to avoid the general’s wrath).

These two events, coming so close to each other, raised the interest of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who wrote Sharon a touching and beautiful letter of condolences during the Shiva week that followed his son’s death. Chabad.org offers the entire text online, but I will concentrate on what I believe are the late Rebbe’s poignant observations which he saw fit to share with Sharon.

The Rebbe wrote:

I was deeply grieved to read in the newspaper about the tragic loss of your tender young son, may he rest in peace. We cannot fathom the ways of the Creator. During a time of war and peril you were saved—indeed, you were among those who secured the victory for our nation, the Children of Israel, against our enemies, in which “the many were delivered into the hands of the few, etc.”—and yet, during a time of quiet and in your own home, such an immense tragedy occurred!

It’s the two men’s first encounter, entirely initiated by the Rebbe, and yet he, relentless educator that he was, didn’t waste a beat in launching into a lesson that offered condolences, praise for the general’s military victories, and direction. The document in its entirety is brilliant and daring in equal amounts. To me, it’s obvious that the Rebbe had spotted in Sharon a potential for good that must be cultivated. This was nothing new—the Lubavitcher Rebbe was an unstoppable turbine of inspiration and influence, laboring to change the world from his small chambers on Eastern Parkway, Crown Heights. It’s just that when he was love bombing a notable historical figure, he reached greater heights.

Christians Lead Record Year for Tourism in Israel

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Israel’s Tourism Ministry’s aggressive pitch to bring Christians to visit Israel has paid off with another record-breaking year for visitors, led by Americans and Russians who accounted for nearly 35 percent of tourists.

Three-quarters of the tourists visited Jerusalem, and 68 percent arrived at the Western Wall, Israel’s most popular attraction.

Only 28 percent of the visitors in 2013 were Jewish, reflecting the ministry’s campaign aimed at Christians, who accounted for 53 percent of incoming tourists. Half of them were Catholic.

Tourism now accounts for approximately 56 percent of the work force.

December saw an even greater increase in the number of visitors, with a 14  percent rise over the same month in 2012.. A visitor is defined as one who stays at least one night in a hotel. The number of day visitors decreased last month.

The average U.S. visitor spent $1,865 per trip, not including the flight.

Netanyahu Tells Reform Jews that ‘Peace Is not One-Way Street

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial 2013 conference in a video address Sunday, “Peace is not a one-way street. It’s a two-way street” in his efforts for a peaceful solution to the Iranian and Palestinian Authority issues.

He also praised recent efforts to find a compromise solution to interdenominational conflict at the Western Wall and thanked the Reform movement for its efforts to strengthen Jewish identity and American Jews’ connection to Israel.

In large part, the speech repeated the principal points of Netanyahu’s address to the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly last month in Jerusalem. Netanyahu began by reiterating his frequent message that the best way to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is through maintaining economic sanctions alongside the threat of military attack.

Netanyahu said that Iran’s repression of civil rights at home, as well as its support for terror abroad; belie the friendly diplomatic posture its leaders have struck recently. “It talks the talk, but it walks the walk of death every day,” he said.

Addressing ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, the Prime Minister repeated his call for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He also emphasized the need for an agreement that will ensure Israel’s security.

WOW Blame Jewish Press, Bloggers, for Graffiti

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Read also: Orthodox & Reform Rabbis Condemn Arab Violence against Settlers

Last week, the home of Women of the Wall board member Peggy Cidor was attacked with graffiti. The graffiti read: “Petty, watch out” and “Women of the Wall are villains.” Ever since this incident, before a police investigation has even determined who the culprits are, Women of the Wall have started a media campaign falsely claiming that “right-wing Orthodox journalists and bloggers false accusations” against the Women of the Wall organization “directly cause a real, physical threat and danger to the lives of the women.” These slanderous statements have been published in the Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and all across social media.

As the journalist who broke the story about the Women of the Wall leadership’s connections to anti-Israel organizations, I would like to stress that neither my articles published in the Jewish Press and Jerusalem Online News nor that of Varda Epstein and Bat-Zion Susskind-Sacks in the Times of Israel, nor Jonathan Rosenblum in the Jerusalem Post, nor Gil Ronen in Arutz Sheva, nor Daniel Greenfield in Front Page Magazine are responsible for the graffiti. None of us support violence and we found out about the story in the media, just like every one else. I am sorry from the bottom of my heart that Peggy had to go through this.

However, I would like to emphasize that just because Peggy was the victim of a graffiti attack does not give Shira Pruce, spokeswoman of Women of the Wall, the right to make false accusations against her political opponents before any police investigation has been conducted, especially when there is zero evidence indicating that there is any connection between the recent media exposure connecting the Women of the Wall leadership to anti-Israel groups and the graffiti.

As Ronit Peskin of Women for the Wall asserted in an interview I conducted with her last week in Jerusalem Online News, “It could have been someone with a personal grudge against Peggy, rather than someone prompted by the leaderships connections to anti-Israel groups, especially given the fact that she was never mentioned in JPOST, Arutz Sheva, the Times of Israel, Front Page Magazine, the Jewish Press or any of the other news organizations that wrote about the connections between Women of the Wall and anti-Israel groups. Furthermore, she is a relatively unknown board member of Women of the Wall, who is not really mentioned in any media about the organization. This undermines the argument that the recent news articles exposing the Women of the Wall’s leadership to anti-Israel groups has something to do with the graffiti.”

In that interview, it was also revealed to me that Women of the Wall accused Women for the Wall of being responsible for the negative media exposure. I would like to take this opportunity to state that I am not in any way connected with Women for the Wall. I am an independent pro-Israel writer who is not part of any particular group either for or against women praying with tallits at the Kotel. My only interest as a journalist is to expose the truth to the public, so that they can have the information needed to make their own decisions. I would also like to add that it is my commitment to the truth and not my religious beliefs that caused me to expose the Women of the Wall’s leaderships’ connections to anti-Israel groups to begin with. I would have wanted to also write articles exposing the links of a Haredi organization such as Neuterai Karta whose leadership is connected to anti-Israel groups, if such links were not yet public knowledge.

I would also like to note that I only became familiar with Women for the Wall once I exposed the connections between Women of the Wall’s leadership and anti-Israel organizations. Before I took this step, I never heard of them nor met any of their leaders. Even though I now have sympathy for them as a fellow victim of Women of the Wall’s slander, I continue to remain independent from them.

Given that Women of the Wall continue to claim that I stated lies about them, I would like to ask them, why haven’t you produced the proof showing that your leadership is not associated with the organizations that I listed? And if no proof can be produced and there truly is nothing wrong with your leaderships’ connections to the organizations that I listed, why are you so disturbed that these connections have become public knowledge to the point that you threatened news organizations and when that failed, resorted to engaging in libel against those who spoke out against you?

I would like to add that had Women of the Wall not responded to my original story, my article would likely have remained only in one news source and quickly become old news. It only spread all over the internet once Shira Pruce decided to make a scandal out of it by threatening news organizations and then choosing to spread slander against her opponents instead of offering a proper rebuttal. Shira Pruce furthermore continues to refuse to mediate with Women for the Wall, to try and calm down the situation.

When I spoke to Shira Pruce on twitter, in an attempt to understand her logic, she defended her organizations connections to the New Israel Fund by claiming that attacking Women of the Wall was like attacking rape crisis centers because they also receive funding from them: “You attack WOW based on an association fallacy. I await your article attacking rape crisis centers.” The fact that the leaderships of rape crisis centers generally aren’t publicly active in anti-Israel causes on the side and don’t usually engage in highly politicized provocative actions doesn’t register with her.

Shira Pruce’s poor leadership was highlighted about a month ago when my story became public and her recent reactions demonstrate her unsuitability for the job once again. Once the graffiti became public knowledge, Women of the Wall had a chance to gain sympathy from every one, including me. They lost that golden opportunity by taking advantage of the spotlight to slander others without any kind of evidence to back up their claims. If Women of the Wall wants to be viewed as a credible organization, its time for them to find leadership not connected with anti-Israel groups and to choose a new spokeswoman that knows how to properly defend a cause that she professes to care about, instead of causing more damage to her organization.

British Rabbis Scold Orthodox Shul for Letting Women Hold Torah

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

The British organization of orthodox communities has scolded a London orthodox synagogue for allowing women to hold and pass around a Torah scroll in the women’s section during prayers on Shabbat.

The incident has caused far less sensation than the more extreme and public campaign of the so-called Women of the Wall, a group of approximately 100 women who for years have campaigned to claim that “equality” means they can not only hold a Torah Scroll but also can read it at the Western Wall, adjacent to the Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount, and in violation of the desires of most daily worshippers there.

Men, unlike women, have an obligation to pray in a minyan with at least nine other men and to hear the Torah scroll being read on Mondays, Thursday, holidays, Shabbat and holidays.

Women’s involvement in public prayer has become more pronounced in recent years, and orthodox Jewish “women’s only” minyans are not uncommon in the United States.

In almost all orthodox synagogues, the Torah scroll is taken out of the ark for reading and is carried through the men’s section, although women in many synagogues are able to touch it as it passes their sections.

The Golders Green United Synagogue has now allowed it to be handed over to a woman, who then passes it around the women’s section until it is returned for reading or to the ark.

Rabbis could raise the issue of Jewish law that perhaps a man cannot touch a Torah scroll that has been handled by a woman who is not ritually clean because of her menstrual period, but the overwhelming issue is the traditional separation of sexes and involvement in prayers as a matter of modesty. The fear is that once one traditional barrier is broken, all of the barriers will be battered down.

Professor Benny Chain, chairman of Golders Green United Synagogue, said, “People have said what an emotional experience it is and that they feel much more involved in the service,” the London Jewish Chronicle reported.

Rabbi Ephraim Padwa, head of the rabbinate of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, condemned the practice as “Reform-influenced,” explaining that women handling the Torah and “breaches of this nature” come “from the influence of the Reform.”

The issue in the Diaspora usually arises during Simchat Torah, following the holiday of Sukkot. Women in American communities in Israel and others in the United States hold their own minyan for the holiday, read from the Torah scrolls and dance with them, as men have done for centuries.

The most outstanding aspect of the event of women holding a Torah scroll in the Golders Green synagogue is that is has not captured attention among the anti-Orthodox crowd and media elsewhere.

The New York Times took it on itself this year to sponsor the Women of the Wall campaign on its pages, inciting the American Jewish community to fury over the very idea of women not having the “right” to disturb centuries of tradition  at the Western Wall, all in the name of democracy and not Judaism.

Their claim that the Western Wall is a public place, and therefore open to all, holds not water. The Western Wall is a synagogue and is legally under the authority of the Western Wall Rabbi, misguided or not in not allowing women to hold their own minyan in other areas that would not disturb the public at large.

Unlike the Women of the Wall, the carrying of the Torah scroll by women in an orthodox synagogue is not a political campaign and is far more of a challenge to orthodox Jewry in the Diaspora. It raises a far more serious challenge to Orthodox rabbis throughout the world.

In Israel, where most Jews are “secular” but observe many Jewish laws and are generally respectful of tradition, “women’s rights” is of far less interest, The New York Times and the Women of the Wall notwithstanding.

Paula Abdul to Celebrate Bat Mitzvah at Age 51 at Western Wall

Monday, October 28th, 2013

American singer, multi-platinum recording artist, choreographer, dancer, television personality, Grammy and two-time Emmy Award-winner Paula Abdul arrived on her first visit to Israel this week and plans to celebrate her Bat Mitzvah at the Western Wall, 39 years late.

She also will meet with President Shimon Peres on Tuesday.

Abdul was born in Los Angeles to Jewish parents. She once said, “My father is a Syrian Jew whose family immigrated to Brazil. My mother is Canadian with Jewish roots. My dream is to go to Israel for a real holiday.”

Israel’s Tourist Minister in 2006, Yitzchak Herzog, invited her to visit, which she said would be a “dream come true” but did not happen until this week. The visit may be a prelude to a singing performance next year, the Boycott Israel movement notwithstanding.

Abdul plans to visit major tourist sites in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Galilee and will explore Israel’s fashion, dance, culinary and music scene.

She began her  dancing career at the age of eight and became a sought-after choreographer before she began to compose music and sing. Abdul starred in the hit reality show about her life “Hey Paula” and, in recent years, has served as a judge on the popular American talent shows “American Idol” and “X-Factor.”

Mazel Tov, Paula.

High-Speed Train Planned to Whisk Passengers to Old City

Monday, October 21st, 2013

A high-speed train now under construction from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem may be extended to reach the Old City, according to an Israel Railways and the Transportation Ministry plan that will be stiffly opposed by Jerusalem planning authorities.

The planned line includes a 1.5 mile tunnel linking the central train station, being built across the street from the Central Bus Station, with the Mamilla mall that is located directly opposite the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City.

Planners are afraid that the planned rail line will take funds away from extending Jerusalem’s light rail system, which now consists of only one line. Three more lines are being planned.

Kotel Rabbi Gives Up and Tells Haredi Girls: Ignore Women’s Minyan

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz has requested that Haredi girls not fill the women’s section of the Kotel plaza the next time the Women of the Wall arrive to pray, perhaps on Friday.

“When Jews fight with each other at the Western Wall, there is no greater desecration of God’s name,” a statement from his office read.

A fragile compromise on multidenominational prayer has been taking shape through a committee convened by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and headed by Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky.

“Therefore we should await the decision of the committee, so that we can create order that will return calm and brotherhood to the Western Wall,” according to the rabbi’s statement.

The WoW may arrive to the area on Friday, the first of the two days marking the new Hebrew month of Cheshvan, although they have been granted their own prayer area at Robinson’s Arch, at the southern end of the Western Wall but less popular among tourists and visitors than the section at the plaza.

WoW spokeswoman Shira Pruce told The Jewish Press Wednesday that the agreement to allow women to reads the Torch and pray at a minyan at a more remote area is a solution that smacks of “separate and unequal.” She said that the women are adopting a “wait and see” policy on whether to accept the compromise since the government has not yet built the promised facilities for the women.

Regardless of where they pray on Friday, they will be without a Torah scroll, which is read during the morning prayers on the new month, because their scroll has been damaged by mold. The Jewish Press reported here on Wednesday that the Women of the Wall blame the government for the damage because there are inadequate storage facilities at Robinson’s Arch.

Haredi girls have swarmed the women’s section of the Western Wall Plaza in recent months to make it almost impossible for the smaller WoW group to organize, let alone sing out loud.

Following raucous protests from the men’s section, whistles, catcalls and even chair-throwing, Rabbi Rabinowitz has concluded, although very belatedly, that a “provocation” could upset the “sensitive security situation at the Temple Mount, which is now at its zenith.”

The JTA contributed to this report.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/kotel-rabbi-to-haredi-girls-ignore-womens-minyan/2013/10/03/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: