An apology to the Western Wall

If the Zionist left ever wants to have a chance of governing Israel again, they must rediscover their roots in the Land of Israel.

Sivan Rahav Meir ,

Sivan Rahav meir
Sivan Rahav meir
צילום: עצמי

1. Midnight at the Kotel, the Western Wall. Each night between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur I posted a picture taken at the Kotel at the height of the Slichot prayers.

These impressive pictures were sent to me by tour guides and also by ordinary visitors and in all of them one sees tens of thousands of men, women and children thronging the Kotel plaza to maximum capacity with the overflow crowd filling the alleys of the Jewish Quarter. Earlier on in the evenings, people sent me pictures of the surge of people crowding the Old City participating in tailor-made Slichot tours: for Bedouin soldiers; for the deaf given in sign language; for younger children in the early hours of the evening and a wheelchair accessible tour organized by Yad Sarah. Besides my love of "likes", why did I decide to post these pictures on my Facebook page? What message are they telling us? I feel they reflect three points that were not part of the public agenda during the just-ended year.

The Numbers – One million people visited the Kotel from the beginning of Elul until Sukkot. They voted with their feet. Events that attract such a large crowd are normally headline news. When the media so desires, even those with just a thousand participants reach the front pages. It's all a matter of the agenda. In this case, a large percentage of Israel's citizens stood in traffic jams, parked far away and went by foot to the Kotel, sending a clear message. However, it hardly hit the headlines.

The Variety – Most of the visitors to the Kotel would not be labelled as religious, according to the accepted definition. Take a close look at the pictures, you will hardly see any hareidim, very few knitted kippot and an overwhelming majority of the men donned special head covering out of respect to the holiness of the site. The makeup of the crowd in the women's section is similar. And everyone raises their voice in unison in Tfila and singing the Slichot. No one comments on immodest dress in the women's section (just imagine the uproar if some idiot would dare to do so). The variety of people I met at the Kotel was astounding: an organized tour for bank employees; the workers of a local authority; students at a pre-military academy; busloads of kibbutzniks and moshavniks from the north and south of the country as well as groups of families who got together to make the trip. All these people felt the pull of the Kotel tugging at their Jewish hearts and came to answer the call.

The Kotel – It has been the object of such derision in the past year and only reached the headlines in the context of disagreements and extremism. One could easily believe that it only serves to divide us and no one in their right mind would want to visit. Without getting into an actual discussion about the "Women of the Wall", the surge of people visiting during Elul and Tishrei puts the numbers in perspective. However, those who show their love for the Kotel by thronging towards it do not belong to an organization, they don't have a spokesperson to put out press releases and no one interviewed them to hear their opinion about the site. Maybe the thousands of people coming to say Slichot, should be saying Slicha-Sorry to the Kotel.

2. The ceremony commemorating 50 years of settlement in Judea and Samaria is over, but the dust has not settled on the controversy surrounding it. It isn't only about the President of the Supreme Court or Ayelet Shaked, but also about the Zionist Left-wing. What is its views on these areas? Are they "occupied territories" to be despised or a beloved Land to be withdrawn from with a heavy heart for the sake of a peace agreement?

If the Zionist Left ever wants to return to power, they should take a look at the following historic documents. The director of the Kfar Etzion Field School, Yaron Rosenthal, discovered this exchange of letters written in the 1980s between Chanan Cohen from north Tel Aviv, a member of the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement and Elisha Shapira, head of the movement's supreme council:

"Dear Elisha,

I am very sorry that I took part in the 8th grade field trip to Jerusalem. As you know, the trip took place over the Green Line in the areas Israel conquered in 1967. Perhaps, there isn't anywhere to hike in Eretz Yisrael proper? I felt terrible being in a place which doesn't belong to me. I also felt terrible when the Jewish pioneer settlers of Tekoa helped me out. The bothersome end-of-trip ceremony also lost all its significance when it was held atop Herodion, in the Occupied Territories of Judea and Samaria. We of Hashomer Hatzair are as guilty of ruling over another people with might and brutality and justifying it as the wicked settlers who use slogans such as "The Holy Land" and "The Chosen People" to justify "Greater Israel." In my opinion, the Green Line is the Red Line, not to be crossed. I hope that the 'Coast to Sea' hike we usually do from the Mediterranean to the Sea of Galilee won't take place from Beirut to the Chouf Mountains. In my view, I seriously believe there is no difference between the two hikes."

"Dear Chanan,

The State of Israel will not be able to retain its Jewish and democratic character if it continues to rule over another people. We have come to the decision that, under the present conditions, we have no alternative but to divide sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael between the two peoples. However, this must not be interpreted as meaning that we do not consider the entire Land of Israel as being the cultural, historical and national homeland of the Jewish people. Chanan, you are being very cynical and derisive when you ask whether the roots of our movement and our Judaism were planted and nurtured in Herodion, Solomon's Pools and Batir! My answer to you is an unequivocal -Yes! Herodion is named for Herod who built the Temple, the same king who also built Masada which we ascend every year. Batir, is named for the Beitar where Bar-Kokhba's soldiers fought against the Romans, and you certainly know who Solomon's Pools are named after.

Chanan, you cannot erase the connection between a people and its homeland with cynical comments. When we withdraw from Judea and Samaria, which I hope will happen soon, to the safe and agreed-upon borders (which are not exactly the same as the Green Line) we will not withdraw as occupiers returning home from a strange land. We will return with a feeling that we are dividing up our home, that we are leaving landscapes that are dear to us for the sake of the very worthy ideal of peace. This is the moral fortitude of our movement. After all, I hope that when we make peace, we will still be able to tour the sites in which our people was formed, even if we will not have sovereignty over them. If not, then what kind of peace will that be? Chazak VeAmetz, Be Strong.

Elisha Shapira

Chief Leadership Coordinator of Hashomer Hatzair"

This discussion about our feelings for parts of our homeland, either revulsion and suspicion or love and honor is as relevant today as then. Even if the Left of today still has the same conclusion about the need to withdraw, the attitude speaks volumes.