In short, today’s service at the Western Wall featured:
- no violent religiosity
- no intentionally obnoxious religiosity (i.e. loud singing today was clearly not directed against Women of the Wall)
- approximately 25 women
- approximately 5 men
- approximately 4 soldiers guarding the mehitzah dividing the women’s and men’s sections of the Western Wall
- one of these soldiers, apparently named Oren, who, upon seeing me today, recognized me from last time, and immediately told me to step away from the “fence” (by which he meant the “mehitzah“) and strongly suggested I go pray with some men who were already praying (I explained though that I wasn’t praying with these guys; Oren didn’t like that…)
- Oren later told his fellow soldiers that, not only did he remember me from last time, but I apparently annoyed him last time, and, last but not least…
- soldier-buddies asked Oren jokingly if he’d like to join me in my singing Hallel with Women of the Wall, and his response was No, but he’d like to hit me.
On one hand, I feel uncomfortable publicizing this. On the other hand, I feel that Oren put himself out there, and my final critical words I want to say about him are the following: as far as I’m concerned, Oren was the biggest problem at the Wall today.
Everything else was pretty nice and quiet, meaningful and inspiring. (Some of the non-Oren soldiers even sang along with Hallel, even though it was led by women, and some of these soldiers were wearing kippot on their heads! Oren wasn’t, by the way.)
When all was said and done, I was late for class, so I caught a cab. Much to my pleasure and surprise, the ride filled me with hope for religious pluralism in the Jewish state.
I told the cab driver he’d be taking me to the Schechter Institute.
I explained to him where it is (Avraham Granot 4) and what it is (a semi-liberal/semi-traditional rabbinical school).
The cab driver was a kippah-bearing man who told me he got up at 5 AM this morning so he could pray and then go to work.
He said he meant no harm but that he had no understanding of why people might deviate from the words of the Sages.
I told him a few reasons people might: that there have been arguments and disagreements throughout history and that there has always been a tension between the spirit and the law in Judaism.
He listened to me very carefully.
He told me of all the strange and challenging things Jews do because we must.
I listened to him very carefully.
I told him I believe in thoughtful change in Judaism.
I said I tremendously respect his way of life, and he said he respected mine.
I said we might both be wrong, or we might both be right.
When I left the cab, he blessed me and said he hopes that we will both find the truth.
Oren, I hope that you will find the truth too.