Kotel Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz brings in the big guns

Extremism and outright deceit

A picture is worth a thousand words. This photo, which was posted by the Women of the Wall, shows the Chairwoman of WOW Anat Hoffman and its former director Lesley Sachs sitting on the ground and protecting the Torah scroll, which they intended on bringing into the women’s section of the Kotel so that their fellow worshippers could read from the Torah during this Rosh Chodesh service, which they have been holding, without fail, for over thirty years.

Western wall guards threatening Women of the Wall (Kislev 5782)Western wall guards threatening Women of the Wall (Kislev 5782)

Their bringing the Torah scroll to the women’s section and the need to protect it arose from the escalating efforts of Kotel Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz to block the women’s right to conduct their services according to their custom, as ensure by the principle of freedom of worship, which Israel boasts of in every international forum but denies to the Women of the Wall and the non-Orthodox denominations that wish to hold egalitarian services at the Kotel. Now he is no longer satisfied with attempts to prevent WOW from bringing Torah scrolls to the Kotel. He dispatched his hoodlums, the Kotel guards, to attempt to take the scroll away from them, which they managed to bring in. The photo below shows those that Rabbi Rabinowitz and his men selected to “protect” the Kotel against WOW through intimidation, force, and their threatening appearance – speaks for itself.

It should also be noted that the Kotel Rabbi has not attempted to prevent the violence and humiliation to which WOW are exposed every Rosh Chodesh. As we recently saw in a photo that we posted, in which a large number of ultra-Orthodox and Zionist ultra-Orthodox individuals were assaulting WOW and took their hatred out by tearing apart their prayer books.

This is not only about extremism and violence, but it is also about outright lies. The leaders of the Haredi parties adamantly deny having given the consent to the Kotel compromise when it was formulated by the then Cabinet Secretary Dr. Avichai Mandelblit (currently the Attorney General) who was doing Netanyahu’s bidding. A Shas MK who was interviewed this week, for instance, and reacted to MK Rabbi Gilad Kariv (Chair of the Law & Constitution Committee and former Director of the Reform movement) who stated that the leaders of the Haredi parties had agreed to the compromise, which was worked out. The Shas MK said, “This is an utter lie. It never happened. Nobody agreed to this plan.”

It is regrettable that Dr. Mandelblit and his assistant Dr. Limon maintain silence and do not help by refuting the false statements of the Haredi politicians. They know the truth, for they themselves briefed the Haredi leadership: Rabbi Deri, Rabbi Gafni, and Rabbi Litzman. They responded to their questions, and they provided an indirect channel for negotiations, while conferring with the leaders of the non-Orthodox denominations and WOW. Incidentally, the need for an indirect channel arose because, like the recalcitrant Arab countries that refuse to sit down with the State of Israel, the Haredi leadership and Chief Rabbinate refuse to sit with the non-Orthodox leadership in order to resolve their disputes.

One needs to be particularly naïve to think that former PM would dare to bring to a Cabinet vote an agreement worked out after more than three years of negotiation without receiving a green light from the Haredi parties, upon whose support his government was hanging. Netanyahu and the ultra-Orthodox parties played the political game. They gave their approval and made it clear that even as they were going to vote against it in Cabinet, they knew that the overwhelming majority of ministers would approve it, they would not cause a political crisis over it. (It ought to be remembered that the agreement also brought about the tightening of the Chief Rabbinate’s hold over the traditional Kotel area, removed the non-Orthodox movements and WOW from it to a separate area where prayer services were not held in the past, which functioned as an archeological site, and, on the face of it, relieved Israel of this struggle, which threatened Israel-Diaspora relations.)

One needs to be particularly naïve to think that former PM would dare to bring to a Cabinet vote an agreement worked out after more than three years of negotiation without receiving a green light from the Haredi parties, upon whose support his government was hanging.

However, the Haredi leadership did not anticipate the storm brought about by the independent ultra-Orthodox media and senior rabbinic figures who took advantage of this opportunity to settle past accounts with the Haredi political leadership. Deri, Gafni, and Litzman did not withstand this unexpected pressure and turned 180 degrees, demanding that the PM void the agreement, threatening the continued existence of his government. However, they did not settle for his surrender and his suspension of the compromise. They also chose to turn their backs on the truth and refuse to acknowledge that the agreement had been presented to them in great detail, and they had given it their silent consent.

Incidentally, another layer of lies and deception was added in recent days, as is the custom of Haredi propagandists. A “stunning revelation” was widely publicized in the Haredi media:

“‘This wall is absolutely of no interest’ – this is just the tip of the iceberg of the expressions of aversion, which are included in an ugly letter sent in 1970 by Dr. Klaus Jakob Herrmann, one of the Reform leaders, in which he declared unequivocally and explicitly that the Reform have nothing to look for by the Western Wall, and that they have more attractive sites to embrace. It was after the late Rabbi MK Menachem Porush lifted a Reform prayer book (UR: the article calls it a volume of ‘tiflah’, meaning ‘vapid’, playing on the word for prayer: ‘tfilah’, which their standard distorted verbiage for Reform and Christian prayer books and houses of worship), while speaking at the Knesset about the Law of Return. He showed that the Reform took out sections expressing attachment to Zion, spat, and dropped the volume to the floor with contempt.”

The letter was sent by Dr. Herrmann of Sir George Williams University in Montreal, Canada who chose to write it in German, in which he expressed his extreme anti-Zionist position, being one of the leaders of the American Council of Judaism, a group known for its opposition to Zionism and to Israel. Herrmann never was among the “leaders of the Reform movement” and did not hold any role in the Reform movement. But truth and the facts have been of no interest to the propagandists who seized the letter as a great probative find. Clearly, this Herrmann represents the Reform movement even less than those who burn the flag of Israel on Independence Day in Me’ah She’arim represent Orthodox Judaism.

Rabbi Rabinowitz and his hoodlums are acting in the service of religious extremists for whom the values of the Jewish and democratic State of Israel are alien and despised. They aspire to a Torah state, in which the principle of religious freedom would be abrogated would be returned to their “traditional” roles of childrearing, cooking, and, these days, also providing for their yeshiva-bound husbands.

The actions of these people and their Haredi political leadership undermines the desirable character of the State of Israel, in sheer contrast to the will of the majority of the Jewish public and of an even greater majority of all the coalition parties’ voters. It is high time to return to Kotel set free in 1967 by Israel’s paratroopers to the Jewish people as a whole!

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