I remember my first trip to Israel, the summer before I turned ten years old. As I was heading via sheirut (a shared cab in Israel) to the airport to return home to Milwaukee, I remember crying, hoping, begging, and praying to see the Kotel (the Western Wall) just once before the flight. My then prayers were answered, as the sheirut drove nearby and past the Kotel to pick up another passenger going to the airport.
The Kotel was for me as a child the deepest connection that I held to the Land of Israel. Now, however, it has grown more and more to be represent my deepest divide from and pain toward the Land of Israel. For a long time, the Kotel has held no spiritual connection for me. The policy at the Kotel forbidding men and women to pray together and permitting if not encourage violence toward those who do so have long repelled me. I have not visited the Kotel in any of my recent visits. Indeed, it now symbolizes the division between Ultra-Orthodox Jewry and Jews who practice Judaism in any way that they deem unacceptable; it reminds me of the disdain that we as Jews often hold for one another, rather than the love; and the Western Wall has become a barrier to my love of Israel.
I still cherish my time in Israel, and I long to visit once again. But, after yesterday’s repudiation of the agreement to insure that the Kotel should be a safe and welcoming place for all Jews of different practices, I cannot continue to pretend that Israel is a spiritual home for me. I love the Land, I love the people, and I miss dearly my family and friends who live there. Sadly — tragically — it is no longer a home for my Jewish soul.
What’s next? What can I do — what can WE do — to make a difference? That’s for future consideration. If you have constructive thoughts, then please let me know. I’ll post mine later. For now, I am dismayed, and my heart aches.