Thursday, July 18, 2013
I have yet to get my head around the whole Women of the Wall issue, but in the meantime I believe that the Masorti movement has found a way to quietly, elegantly and successfully access the Western Wall, (known in Hebrew as the Kotel), bypassing the Orthodox hegemony over admittance and rituals at this sacred location.
I recounted previously how for the fast of the 9th of Av we recited the sad liturgy in the Davidson Center, amidst the massive remaining rubble of the second Temple. The Davidson Center is actually an extension of the exact same wall that has become venerated over the last two millennia.
Inspired by the quiet, almost private venue, I decided to hold the ceremony of my son’s first laying of his Tefillin in anticipation of his Bar-Mitzvah, at the Davidson Center, just a few meters further along from where we would have done it otherwise at the main Kotel plaza.
The experience was both educational and transformative. First I will list the advantages of Davidson over the Kotel plaza with my sincere apologies to any Kotel, Tourism, Jerusalem and/or Orthodox officials that may feel slighted by the comparisons:
- It is quiet, almost eerily so. On a busy day at the Kotel plaza you can hardly hear yourself think, let alone pray.
- It is shady. Particularly important during a hot Israeli summer morning with the sun climbing quickly in the sky.
- There are no panhandlers/charity demanders flocking around you like harpies throughout the visit.
- There are no pushy, toe-stepping, old-lady-shoving delinquents edging to get closer to God’s wall.
- It is historically and archeologically much more interesting, both because of the displays, but more importantly because of the multiplicity of archeological remains that are still on site, including the fallen stones I’ve described, the ancient ritual baths, the vendor stalls (that Jesus complained about in his attack on the Temple money-changers), the vestige of Robinson’s Arch and much more.
- Perhaps the most significant advantage was the ability of our womenfolk to be close participants in the event. They didn’t need to fight other women to get a chair to stand precariously on and peek over the divider to get a short glimpse of their son, or grandson, or brother, several meters away commemorating an important milestone in their lives and generally unable to hear a word.
Since my own Bar-Mitzvah and my brother’s and my three older sons, we have all donned our Tefillin and/or read from the Torah for the first time at the Kotel. It is always a special, emotional and life-defining event. This time it was seriously enhanced.
Following are details for those that may want to follow our example:
- The Davidson center opens to the public at 8am.
- Admission is NIS 30 per adult, NIS 16 for children, seniors and soldiers.
- If you book your event through the Masorti movement and arrive before 8:45am (exactly), there is no charge for admission (would have saved me several hundred shekel – though the money spent was still highly worthwhile – it was as if I had rented an exclusive first class part of the Kotel for private use).
- In general, they are not really set up for prayer services. As we came on a day that did not require the reading of the Torah, it was not complicated. We brought our own prayer books and were fine.
Overall it was an incredible, enjoyable and meaningful event and I recommend it to all who wish to have an organized prayer at the foot of God’s house.