Kotel Controversy: The complete list of fake news items

Leading columnist Yedidya Meir outlines the 'fake news' items associated with the recent Western Wall controversy

Yedidya Meir ,

Yedidya Meir
Yedidya Meir
מנדי אור

I sometimes wonder how we ever managed before Trump coined the phrase "fake news? It wasn't so long ago, only sometime last year, but how did we live without the phrase that has become a part of our lexicon? It's almost like trying to imagine a time when the word "bug" referred to a virus and not to nagging.

If I wish to discuss the latest controversy about the Kotel, I would have to add the phrase "fake news" at the end of each comment, just like we say "ki leolam chasdo" at the end of each line during psukei d'zimra (one of the psalms with a repeated refrain, ed.) on Shabbat morning. So here goes my take on the affair.

"The State of Israel is pushing Reform and Conservative Jews away from the Kotel and hasn't allocated any space for them to pray." Fake News. For the past four years, Israel has given them a large plaza called "Ezrat Yisrael" where they can pray as they wish. Even after [part of] the arrangement was cancelled this week, the plaza will still continue to be used by them. Or rather, it will in not be used by them. Whenever I go to the Kotel, their plaza is empty.

"The Haredim have taken control of the Kotel." Fake News. The Kotel does not belong to the Haredim. It belongs to God and to all of the Jewish people, and precisely for this reason it's not only Haredim who oppose the arrangement, but also millions of Jews – Haredim, Orthodox, traditional and also secular Jews. Yes, the past four years since the Ezrat Yisrael plaza was established is living proof that secular Jews prefer to come to the regular, Orthodox plaza.

As expected, they vote with their feet and with their siddur. Just like the vast majority of secular Jews celebrate their Bar Mitzva in an Orthodox synagogue, get married under the auspices of the Rabbinate and - after 120 years - are buried in a religious funeral. Why? Because even people who do not observe all the mitzvot want to keep what they do observe exactly as their forefathers did, according to accepted tradition.

They are not looking for a female, tallit and tefillin-wearing rabba who plays the guitar during Shabbat services, who is prepared to marry them to a non-Jew. Irit Linor, the secular media personality commented this week that: "As a secular woman, I am very skeptical about religions, especially young ones. I believe we should give new religions some 500, 600 or even 700 years and wait and see in which direction they develop."

"The Reform Movement is by definition one of change Even secular Jews like me sincerely wonder what makes them a stream in Judaism. When Reform Jews abandon mitzvot like kashrut and Shabbat that secular Jews like me know about, and when their rabbis officiate at interfaith marriages, then before they demand equal rights, they would be well-advised to realize that, with all due respect, the Kotel is still a site with 'roots that go deep back in time' to quote "Rabbi" Shalom Chanoch (a popular Israeli singer, ed.) . They should remember this when they come and wish to change the customs that exist at this site.

"There is a danger that US Jewry will be insulted and may chas veshalom stop their donations to Israel". This is a patently fake argument. Since when does money buy ideology? Even David Friedman, the US Ambassador to Israel condemned these declarations about "severing the relationship". This argument is also insulting to us as "shnorrers" as well as to our donors in the Diaspora.

Think about it for a minute, are they threatening us with emotional and financial blackmail? Is this conditional love? What kind of relationship is this? And if they were poverty-stricken Jews from Argentina, then would we simply ignore their threats? And most importantly, if religious, right-wing Jews in Israel or the Diaspora would make similar threats, do you think that this would pass unanswered?. If it weren't for the fact that this disagreement is between different groups of Jews, I would even go so far as to say that it has strong anti-Semitic overtones, as if large dollar donations are the only things that sway those "Jew-boys."

"Outrage in North American Communities". Unfortunately, I have no way of proving that this is Fake News. All I can compare it to is headlines in the Israeli media that describe "outrage in the settlements" which actually means that a few activists express their anger and meanwhile thousands of settlers carry on their daily life as normal. Or when the top news item is that the "Haredim are livid" I know that most Haredim don't even know what they are supposed to be angry about.

Similarly, it would not be unrealistic to hazard a guess that in the case of US Jewry the hysteria is somewhat exaggerated and it is only a few Jewish Agency officials who are fanning the flames. In such cases, there are always people who have a vested interest in putting on a display of extreme anger.

"Stop considering us Reform congregants as non-Jews." Fake News. No-one ever said that Reform Jews are not Jewish.Anyone born to a Jewish mother or who converts according to halakha is a full-fledged Jew. And that is precisely what is so infuriating about the Reform Jews. They distort halakha, the heads of the Reform Movement agree to conduct weddings between a Jew and a gentile, and they celebrate that union instead of expressing deep sorrow over it. So let's unequivocally declare that the heads of the Conservative and Reform streams are fully-fledged Jews. The question is whether their grandchildren will be.

Unfortunately, it is entirely possible that their next generation will no longer celebrate their Bar Mitzvas at any one of the plazas at the Kotel.

Yedidya Meir is a well-known Israeli publicist and radio personality.