Kotel controversy – is it for the sake of heaven?

It might not be a coincidence that this Shabbat we are going to read about Balaam's efforts to curse the Jews.

Jack Engelhard

OpEds Haredi man and soldier at the Kotel
Haredi man and soldier at the Kotel
צילום: מתוך האתר האישי

Seems there’s a rift between American Jews and Israel. It’s about access to the Kotel, or Western Wall, and if that’s not enough, it’s also about the conversion process. For more information on this, I urge you to please go directly to Google and search “Kotel Controversy.”

But don’t search me because every question I raise or answer I give is sure to be wrong or misunderstood. Got a headache and don’t need this. Does anybody?

A few thoughts, though, and what immediately springs to mind is that in this dispute we find ourselves picking up where Hillel and Shammai took off – whether to resolve our differences by the book, as Shammai would have it, or go the Hillel route, leniency. 

As I recall from my studies, Hillel’s rulings usually won out…but between the two schools, however they differed, it was always for the Sake of Heaven.

For another Torah moment, we turn to the very chapter we’re reading this week, about Balaam and his curses, which G-d turns into blessings.

That should send a message to those Americans who are prepared to “teach Israel a lesson.”

Israel doesn’t get punished enough around the world? Believe me, Israel gets enough “lessons.”

But since, at the moment, Israel’s policies do not quite fit Liberal requirements as to both the Kotel and as to conversion (too strict?) Americans who pray on the Reform side of the street are so upset that they’re threatening to give up on the Jewish State. One billionaire and perhaps many more already want their money back.

Remember Balaam is all I can say about that – and remember that curses against Israel don’t work, even backfire, and for Jews to do it is an abomination.

Even Moses got in trouble when he called us “rebels.” G-d didn’t like that, but don’t take it from me, ask your rabbi.

Which rabbi and which synagogue – that appears to be part of the controversy, or maybe all of it, like this old joke that everybody knows: The Jewish family move into a non-Jewish neighborhood and build themselves two synagogues. “Why two?” ask the townsfolk. “You’re the only Jews in town.” Because, shouts the father, “I am never going into THAT one.”

But seriously, here’s where it gets sticky: For American Jews to dictate behavior to Israel takes some nerve.

Say the Israelis -- If you want to change things, come join us, make Aliyah, and then you can talk. Otherwise, keep sending money, but shut up.

Who can argue with that? I can’t.

Then this: American support for Israel has been a mixed bag. On the one hand, American Jews joined the fight from day one. 

American support for Israel has been a mixed bag. On the one hand, American Jews joined the fight from day one. 
Think Mickey Marcus (“Cast a Giant Shadow’) and so many more like him who ran to the fight and paid with their lives.

Thousands more paid with their money for the founding and survival of Israel.

On the other hand, the Reform movement and others like it slacked badly while Israel was fighting for its life and independence. So it is to this day…with exceptions.

So it is complicated. 

I’ll say this – which ought to make nobody happy.

One: For Israelis to heap Americans with a guilt trip may not be the way to go.

Two: For American Jews to threaten any form of retaliation against the Jewish State, for whatever reason, is despicable and sinful.

When American patriots bless Israel it serves both countries and works always for the sake of heaven. 

New York-based bestselling American novelist Jack Engelhard writes regularly for Arutz Sheva. Engelhard wrote the international bestseller “Indecent Proposal” and the ground-breaking inside-journalism thriller “The Bathsheba Deadline.” His latest is “News Anchor Sweetheart.” He is the recipient of the Ben Hecht Award for Literary Excellence. Website: www.jackengelhard.com