Sunday, June 19, 2016
My wife and I returned to Israel late Monday afternoon after a two month stay in the U.S. It was not an easy trip—two stops, 23 hours, a cancelled leg, lost luggage. But, as always, it felt good to be back.
Friends were visiting from California. So, despite our fatigue, we hit the ground running. Other than vegetating for a few days, what better way to recuperate from the ordeal that is today’s air transportation system than to introduce good friends to some of the fun and beauty of Jerusalem that the standard touring may have skipped over?
Yemin Moshe, drinks on the King David patio, Machane Yehuda, Café Itamar at Moshav Ora, the Israel Museum. A good time.
And one reminder of what it has taken to defend and build this Jewish home in this inhospitable neighborhood: Mt. Herzl. Our friends, and we, were moved as we walked through row after row of the graves of young people who died so that Jews might live freely in their own country.
The poignant finale: an elderly couple walking up to and bending down, readying to light a candle beside a grave stone in which the year 1982, along with a few details, was etched. The thought of that couple making that walk and lighting that candle for 34 long years is one very good way to put the irritations and complaints of daily life in the Jewish Homeland in perspective.
It was now Thursday afternoon. I asked our friends, who are members of our Conservative synagogue back in Sacramento, if they would like to join us for a different kind of Israeli experience. The main worship area of the Western Wall, the Kotel, has basically become an Orthodox synagogue controlled by the Orthodox rabbinate. All religious practice at the holiest site in Judaism is controlled by one segment of world Jewry.
Per their practice, men and women must worship separately. Those who disagree with this practice and wish to worship as they believe, i.e. Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist Jews, are relegated to a distinct section called the Robinson’s Arch area, the entrance to which is through an archaeological center and not through the entrance to the Kotel.
The message is clear: You are not accepted. Yours is not a legitimate expression of Judaism. Ours is the only authentic Jewish practice. Sending that message is not a mistake. The powers-that-be openly express this belief in their many pronouncements over the issue.