Western Wall belongs to all Jews - but the decision is Israel's

Opinion: Israel is the sovereign power in Jerusalem, and decisions regarding the Western Wall are Israel's to make.

Rabbi Dr. Haim Schein,

Priestly Blessings at the Western Wall
Priestly Blessings at the Western Wall
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

During the Shavuot holiday 50 years ago, I was among the throngs of people that streamed to the Western Wall soon after IDF soldiers liberated it from foreign occupation.

The crowds which flooded the Western Wall area included religious and secular people; haredi Jews and young people of the ‘espresso generation’ [secular Israelis born in the 1950s]; native-born Israelis and Jewish tourists from the Diaspora.

We all sensed that history had reached a pivotal turning point. Now, unfortunately, the eternal holy site, which our Sages say the Divine Presence [shekhina] never left has turned into the center of internal strife, a place of divisions and quarrels.

The quarrels over the Western Wall combine religion, politics, foreign interests, and – first and foremost – the age-old Jewish desire to fight amongst ourselves.

The Western Wall is under the jurisdiction of the State of Israel, and it is thus an internal Israeli matter. It is within the rights of Israel’s citizens to decide via their representatives in the Knesset, how affairs will be conducted in the sacred site.

There are national heroes buried at the army cemetery in Har Herzl, and no one would ever suggest that American Jews can decide how burials are to be conducted there, or how ceremonies should be held, the same way that Israelis can’t influence the regulations concerning visits to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. That’s the nature of the territorial application of democracy.

Every Jew in the world who wants to influence the Israeli government and the policies of the coalition and the Knesset in any area, whether it be with regard to conversion or religion and state, can immediately use their right based on the Law of Return to move to Israel and vote in Knesset elections for whichever party he or she wants.

long as people choose to remain in the Diaspora, they have an obligation to show a degree of modesty towards how Israelis choose to run their country, rather than to criticize and attack.

The idea of Jewish solidarity and American Jewish support for Israel have faded, as could be seen when the vast majority of Jews in America preferred to support Hillary Clinton in last year’s election, not out of a concern for Israel but because of their progressive liberal outlook.

The State of Israel is also the Jewish state. It is the national home and the existential stronghold of world Jewry, whether or not they decide to move there for the time being.

Of course I am very touched by the fact that many Jews around the world feel a connection with what the Western Wall symbolizes and have a sense of belonging there. Putting politics aside, there is a place to find the proper balance to allow every Jew to find his place in the Western Wall Plaza. If we’re serious about doing that, we can find a solution and designate a separate area at the plaza, so long as this issue doesn’t become a matter of principle. Anyone who sees strife as a necessity for victory will lose. May reason and prudence win the day.




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