Rabbi Yoav Ende
They say good memories are forever etched into your mind. Unfortunately, this is also true for bad ones – except those are etched into the soul. 25 years ago, I was finishing my service in the IDF right on the 9th of Av. Myself, my father and a few friends came to read the Scroll of Lamentations in the Western Wall. It wasn’t a particularly big deal back then – many communities read the scroll together for years in circles of fasting and remembering the destruction of the Temple the way the Sages teach us to; remembering the ruin we brought upon ourselves due to needless hate.
The Ultra-Orthodox who were there began to curse us, to use swear words, to hit and mangle and throw objects. They gathered in their thousands and sought to drive us from the Wall. The officers of Jerusalem’s police force herded us away and as they did I watched my father – in mourning, trying to say his Kaddish – get shoved, pushed, and dragged to “safety”.
That experience made it very difficult for me to go back to the Wall and pray with all my heart, as I did before. But it also made me committed to a different form of Judaism, to a society that will behave differently, to Rabbis who will lead to better places. I decided to begin an Educational Center which will focus on the future leadership of Israel, strengthening their bond to a world of faith that chooses life and progress, and stands bravely against the needless hate that still divides us.
Since that time the State of Israel has decided that not all of the Western Wall can accommodate non-Orthodox communities. With much regret, we moved to the less attended southern perimeter, called Ezrat Yisrael. We conducted our services there on holidays, Shabbat, national holidays and family occasions. But now Ultra-Orthodox and right-wing radicals have come there too along with their Rabbis to cast us out. Disruption of prayers, verbal and physical violence, and all manner of abuse have become a new routine.
We will mark the 9th of Av once more next week, and we have no desire to immerse ourselves in hatred, contempt and arrogance. I speak now to you as I speak to the Orthodox Rabbis of Israel, over newspaper and online media, over any channel and format which will sound my voice:
Those of you who believe any Jew in Israel ought to be able to pray in safety; who realize a whole faith cannot be claimed by a single creed; who know that violence in the Western Wall is a most egregious sacrilege and disparagement of sanctity, harming any and all Jews across the world entire;
To those Orthodox Rabbis who stand against the extremists spewing hateful venom, who claim we both share the load in guaranteeing the security of our State,
Let Yourselves Be Known!
Come with you and those that follow your lead to the Wall and stand with us on the 9th. Be a barrier between hatred and sanity. Because if you will absent yourselves – you will concede to those others the sole voice and representatives of the Jewish faith in Israel.
The flames of needless hate are continuously being fed. This fire need not burn, we know we can put it out – but our efforts depend on those would-be arsonists who would see the conflagration grow; who rely on indifference to give them their victory.
I stopped at a gas station a few nights ago. A few young Ultra-Orthodox were standing there trying to hitch a ride. I told them they were more than welcome, but they should know I was a Conservative Jew. One of them looked straight at me and without missing a beat told me they wouldn’t go in my car come hell or high water.
We are Jews, and we are brothers. And needless hate has no place in the State of Israel.