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View from Jerusalem – The Kotel

On Sunday, the Israeli government demonstrated the true meaning of politics by doing not necessarily what is right, or even what it believes in, but rather, took a long hard look at polls and did a calculated assessment of what would best ensure votes for the next elections.

The government voted to freeze the implementation of a proposal submitted in 2016 to construct an egalitarian section at the Western Wall to serve the needs of all Jewish streams and denominations, liberal and more Orthodox as one. In addition, the government accepted the Conversion Bill, which allows the Israeli Orthodox rabbinate to retain exclusive control over all conversion matters.

More than anything, the Kotel—the holiest place for Jews, ALL Jews—should be a source of pride for them. It is the one place where everyone feels welcome and a part of these stones past, present and future. These two miserable votes turn the Kotel from a wall symbolizing unity, to a separation wall.

Israel should be the galvanizing force for the Jewish people, wherever they are at, no matter how they identify. Jews across the Jewish world pray three times a day facing Jerusalem— they pray for rain based on the seasons in Israel, and pray for the well-being of the Jewish state every Shabbat. We all call Israel our Jewish homeland. We all pray with concern or cry with joy when we rally for Israel at times of crises, or to celebrate its enormous achievements.

Earlier today I attended a talk by my favorite speaker, Avraham Infeld, where he addressed one of our JCC Israel Center teen groups. These 80 participants are from Orange County in California, Mexico and Israel and are taking part in their JCC Global Amitim program. Avraham talked about the meaning of being part of the Jewish family. He explained that we are so divided today because we each interpret differently the threats and opportunities that progress and modernity offer.

Infeld advocates for diversity and pluralism; he doesn’t believe we can nor should we be uniform. With his great voice, he calls for unity—a unity that embraces diversity with all its facets.

Next week, thousands of Jews from more than 80 countries will attend the largest Jewish gathering in the world, and will march with pride at the 20th Maccabiah opening ceremony in Jerusalem. These great athletes represent the beauty of Jewish world today, complex and as varied as the hues of the rainbow.

All Maccabiah athletes, along with thousands of spectators and supports, will sing Israel’s anthem, Hatikvah—that is, The Hope—with great pride. They will wave blue and white flags and more than ever, feel connected to the Jewish people, to the Jewish homeland. No political vote will take away from this great moment of Jewish pride and unity, here in Jerusalem, Israel, the homeland of Jews, all Jews.

Leah Garber
Vice President
Director, JCC Israel Center

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