Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Southern Western Wall Separation Oddity

Besides the opposition of archaelogists and the Muslim Waqf, the setting aside of the southern section of the Western Wall perplexes me as per point 2 of the agreement:

In the southern section, prayers will be conducted in accordance with the pluralistic and egalitarian custom in a manner that will provide a satisfactory solution for worshippers from the various non-Orthodox denominations, first and foremost the Reform and Conservative movements. In general, it is in this plaza that men and women will pray without separation. At the same time, and taking into account the pluralistic character of this section, Women of the Wall, whose unwavering struggle to pray in accordance with their beliefs in the Western Wall Plaza has lasted more than 25 years*, will have the option to hold separate prayers for women in the section every Rosh Hodesh and on Ta'anit Esther, and at other times for which the supervisor of the southern section will provide specific permission, in accordance with the opinion of the Southern Section Council. 

So, if I understand this correctly, not only have the WOWers beaten the Chief Rabbinate Orthodoxy but they get another advantage in that they can also tell off the supervisory Council of the Southern Section and conduct prayers however they like - specifically what they consider "Orthodox" -  even if different than those regularly conducted there.

Now, you might say that those of the original WOW group, who were Orthodox, who had their struggle 'stolen' from them by Anat Hoffman and cohorts, still have a claim to be able to conduct an Orthodox service in the Northen Section women's area.  That may well be. 

But the compromise reached leaves the Chief Rabbinate in charge of the Northern Section, on the one hand, and leaves WOW in charge of a certain form of a women's service in the Southern Section even if, theoretically, the Council of the Southern Section would oppose it, like, immodest dress (not that I could see that happening) or very loud singing and dervish-like dancing (which I could see).

Is the the egalitarian way?




Twenty-five years versus five centuries of custom:

While the Wailing Wall today is universally acclaimed as Judaism’s most sacredmonument, its centrality to the religion is not as ancient as is commonly thought.We know from pilgrims and travellers in the fifteenth century that it was not theWailing Wall, but the Mount of Olives outside the Old City that was dedicated oncea year to the commemoration of the destruction of the Temple.3

The Wailing Wall area - a narrow courtyard (120 square meters) in front of the Wall enclaved within the fourteenth century Muslim Moroccan Quarter - was defined and set apart only during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the sixteenth century.

F.E. Peters, in his comprehensive collection of travellers’ and pilgrims’ documentsconcerning Jerusalem, observes that only from the early years of that century didJewish visitors describe the Wailing Wall and connect it with the earlier tradition ofthe ‘Presence of God.’4

Even the ‘official’ history of the Wall published by the Israeli defence ministry in the early 1980s, while noting that “literary reports of travellers and pilgrims, particularly in the last centuries, are full of descriptions of the Western Wall,” added that “it should, however, be pointed out that for hundreds of years, during nearly the whole of the Middle Ages, there is hardly any reference to the Wall.”5
Cf. Rabbi Meshulam Da Volterra, 1481, letter of the Italian Jewish pilgrim, in J. Nom de Deu, Relatos de Viajes y Epistolas de Peregrinos Judíos a Jerusalén (USA, Madrid, 1987), 82: 
“And all the community of Jews, every year, goes up to Mount Zion on the day of Tisha Be-’Av to fast and mourn, and from there they move down along Yoshafat Valley and up to Mount of Olives. From there they see the whole Temple (the Temple Mount) and there they weep and lament the destruction of this house.” (My translation - emphasis added).
 F. E. Peters, Jerusalem (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1985), 528.
 M. Ben Dov and Z. Aner, The Western Wall (Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defence Publishing House, 1983), 65

and this from "When Did Jews Begin to Pray at the Western Wall?" Dan Bahat, Eretz-Israel: Archaeological, Historical and Geographical Studies /ארץ-ישראל: מחקרים בידיעת הארץ ועתיקותיה

AbstractThe study of new documents from the Cairo Geniza, the exposure of the entire length of the Western Wall by tunneling, and the study of the prayer section of the Wall, provides us with information for the study of Jewish prayer rituals at the walls of the Temple Mount. Until the Crusader period, we know that Jews prayed around the four walls of the Temple Mount. After the recovery of the Jewish community in Jerusalem following Crusader rule over the city, the Western Wall was covered by Muslim buildings, and most of it remains so to this day. Prayer was therefore not possible there until 1546, when the buildings covering the section known today as the Western Wall Prayer Plaza were destroyed by an earthquake. Thus, only in the sixteenth century did people begin to arrive at the area of the present-day Western Wall Prayer Plaza for individual prayer. There is, however, no evidence for communal prayer becoming common there until the beginning of the seventeenth century, at the earliest.

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