Jewish tradition holds that the destruction of the temple was the result of שנאת חינם – causeless hate – within the Jewish people. This morning, the first day of Av, the month when we mourn for the temple, I received a stark reminder of that senseless hate, right next to the ruins of that very temple.
For nearly 25 years, women have been coming to mark the beginning of every month with a traditional women’s prayer service at the Western Wall. All we ask is to be allowed to pray peacefully according to our tradition, in the women’s section, close to the Wall. There’s no need for me to write in detail here about the ups and downs of that struggle. Suffice it to say that this month, after complying with the police request to arrive in a convoy of buses provided for the purpose, we found ourselves fenced by the police into an area nowhere near the wall, faced with a “wall” of angry ultra-Orthodox men and women, their faces contorted with hatred, as we raised our voices in celebration of the new month.
I don’t usually write about seemingly internal Jewish issues on this blog. But this is not an internal Jewish issue – senseless hate once again threatens to bring down the Jewish state: the hatred within the Jewish community is one and the same as the hatred towards Palestinians. All this hatred stems from fear – fear of the Other. In this case, the Other is Jewish women with a (slightly) different idea about prayer (or perhaps simply all women). But it’s pretty much the same phenomenon, whether directed at Jewish women or Palestinian men. There’s a deep connection between removing women from any billboard in Jerusalem and between attempting to shut out Palestinians with a huge fence/wall. Of course, there’s also hatred on the other side of the Wall – there’s no lack of Palestinian hatred for Israel and Israelis. There’s no lack of hatred for women within other societies besides our own – as the violence that is perpetrated on women throughout the world testifies. Sadly, there’s also hatred within liberal sections of society, for those that threaten that liberalism. Today, as I prayed nowhere near the Wall, shut out and shut in, all at the same time, I struggled to fill my heart with אהבת חינם – love without measure, senseless love (and frankly, didn’t altogether manage it). But senseless love is what it will take to overcome these divisions and bring about a society that is safe and fair for everyone, regardless of their gender, race, religion, nationality or any other so-called defining trait. As we begin this month of mourning, let us all try to overcome our fear and fill our hearts, our souls and our very being with love.