I recall the evening I landed in Jerusalem at the beginning of my year in Israel, the start of my journey to become a rabbi. I dropped my bags and headed to the Wall. I was thoroughly exhausted. It was very late and I had not slept for way too long. But I needed to go there. As I stood before her, I was overcome with emotion. My eyes filled with tears and my heart raced as I slowly and deliberately made my way to touch the massive stones.
As a rational person, I can argue for why the Wall should not be important. It is perilously close to idolatry, it is only a retaining wall, the religion I embrace has moved beyond this physical space, etc., etc. And yet I was awed and inspired none-the-less.
Each of us proclaiming our Judaism has a right to be in this place. We all are entitled to encounter Judaism and therefore this extraordinary manifestation of it in our own way, on our own terms. To those who claim I am not a good Jew based on their understanding of Judaism, all I can say is, we each have our paths. I do not ask you to agree with mine, only to respect my path and my sincere efforts to engage Judaism as best I can. Likewise, I shall extend the same courtesy to you. Although we do not agree, we are both part of Am Yisrael.
The Sharansky plan to bring various streams of Judaism to this special place is what we each should expect and deserve. Robinson’s Arch is part of the wall, as is the southern wall. But something about the area we all call the Kotel is special. Thus, the Sharansky plan is the acceptable and appropriate way to move forward. Providing space elsewhere is just that, providing space elsewhere; and therefore that is unacceptable. If the actions of the liberal community are offensive to my more traditional brothers and sisters, it would matter little where we might go. We will not force you to participate and I hope we will not be “in your face” and incite you. No legitimate authority can take away our precious place away from us as they could not deny it to you.