Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Kotel

Yesterday morning, I went to the Kotel for the first time since May. The last time I went, I had the realization that the current system of gender segregated prayer disallows for people with gender-variance to pray comfortably on either side. This time, I wanted to go to Robinson's Arch, which is deemed an appropriate alternative where the Conservative Movement (Masorti) had been allowing anyone to come and pray. While it used to cost money to enter after 9:30am, I read that they changed it recently. Also, if you have followed the story of the controversy at the Kotel, there is now a new platform that is supposed to be okay. However, there is no actual access to the Kotel wall from the platform. I wanted to check it out and see what it is was like for myself.

I walked through the Jewish quarter, eventually arriving at the Kotel. The last few times I've gone, I haven't felt anything specially spiritual. I have become a bit frustrated at the whole situation, that is to say, there is only one type of prayer that is acceptable for men and women at the Kotel. Those who don't fit neatly into skirt-wearer or pants-wearer with the socially acceptable genitalia to accompany that clothing, can't really go to the Kotel and pray comfortably. I didn't think about this issue before, but now it's glaring at me.

When I arrived, I asked a girl if she knew how to get to Robinson's Arch. No, she had no idea and was one of the volunteers for the organization that gives shawls to women to cover their shoulders. I was a bit annoyed at that. Then, I sat in a chair in the shade and just looked at the other women praying. I wasn't in the mental space to be able to concentrate. There was a young girl, maybe 8 years old, to my right with a prayer book - standing and sitting and bowing and praying. Her mother was next to her holding a baby and also praying. There were older women in wheelchairs, and of course Greek tourists. There were many frum girls around praying. From the other side of the wall, I could hear the men chanting and singing the morning service, following by the call of the shofar. A few women were looking over to the other side of the separation wall and taking pictures.

I looked up at the Kotel. I often feel like this is just a wall. What's the point? I don't know how much I connect with the Kotel anymore. It's hard for me to feel something in this place. Even so, I come back again and again, hoping to feel something.

Maybe I need to rethink my relationship to the Kotel. Learn more about the history of it and what it means, and find out how I can connect to it in my own way, rather than in the way we are told to. I'm not sure how, but hopefully over these next few months, and as long as I live in Jerusalem, I can explore this further.

Today is the first day of Pardes. At the meet and greet last night, one of the teachers spoke about how coming to Israel and finding yourself (of course more eloquently than that), and I really felt moved by it. In my last year here, I have experienced so much and changed so much. I feel like I'm growing so much more than ever, and it might be because I'm putting myself in very new situations or because it is Israel and things happen here in a different way than in the States. Regardless, I'm excited to be learning and growing. May this coming year bring joy, challenge, and growth.

1 comment:

  1. Jess - I've been thinking a lot about my relationship to the Kotel too. I do fit the heteronormative expectations of the Kotel authorities, but I'm still not entirely comfortable there... I wrote this, this, and then this about it...