Whatever one may think of Natan Sharansky’s plan for creating an expanded section at the Western Wall for vocal women’s and “egalitarian” Jewish prayer services, one thing the balkanization of the Kotel Maaravi cannot be characterized as is a step toward Jewish unity.
For more than three decades, the Kotel has been a place – perhaps the only one in the world – where Jews of all affiliations and persuasions have regularly prayed side by side. What has allowed that for that minor miracle has been the maintenance of a standard at the holy site that all Jews – even those who might prefer other standards, or none at all – can abide.
If Mr. Sharansky’s plan becomes reality, one thing is certain: No more will the collective heartfelt prayers of different types of Jews, with different personal practices, politics or outlooks, rise up as one to heaven – like the “sweet smelling” sacrifices once offered at the Holy Temple that once stood mere yards away.
Instead, there will be two options: a space whose atmosphere respects and reflects traditional Jewish prayer and a space that doesn’t.