Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Kotel through [some of] the ages

Warning: The following post exceeds the recommended daily allowance for controversial topics. However, if you make it through the boring opinion stuff at the beginning, there are some cool pictures at the end…

It’s like a game of Mad Libs gone terribly wrong.

Women _______(preposition) the Wall.

Women around the Wall. Women under the Wall. Women behind the Wall. Women in the Wall. Women off the Wall. Women driving the rest of us up the Wall.

Each of these fictional organizations their real-life counterparts insists that it represents the Ultimate TruthTM; that the other guy started it; and that its members are the poor, misunderstood victims of the story.

But speaking in the name of the sane, silent majority*, I say that we don’t care.

*<explanation>Speaking in the name of the sane, silent majority” is a social media term, which can be loosely translated as: “I feel a certain way, and therefore, that gives me the right to ascribe my views to the rest of the world and to condemn those who dare to disagree with me.” </explanation>

We don’t care which group instigated and which one retaliated. We don’t care which one provoked and which one perpetuated.

Nevertheless, we very much DO care that thanks to their combined efforts, going to the Kotel has become an unpleasant experience for countless women (your humble blogger included).

Of course, to be fair, these groups are not the only ones at fault.

Much of the blame goes to the ever-shrinking size of the women’s section at the Kotel; the Kotel’s ever-rising mechitzah; and the ever-growing barrier separating the Kotel itself from the plaza behind it.

All of these are unfortunate yet very recent developments. Indeed, up until about a decade or so ago, the Kotel plaza looked very different.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Instead, check out the following Shiputzim family photos from over the years, and be sure to click on the pictures for a much better view.

First, an historic picture from the summer of 1967, when there was no barrier at all:

Kotel 1967 (1)See my Kotel 1967 post for more incredible pictures from this period.

Next, the summer of 1970:

BOX69_A06-15As you can see, the front of the plaza is now separated from the back with two metal chains strung from a series of short posts.

We now move on to the summer of 1979:

BIGBOX_A27-10There now appears to be a row of low, movable barriers behind the chains.

Our next stop is early 1983:

IMG_0004The chains have been replaced by a series of short walls, with spaces in between.

And finally, circa 1986-1987:

IMG_0044It’s hard to make out either the barrier or the mechitzah, but clearly they’re both low enough that people can look over them.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any recent pictures of the Kotel plaza (or at least, none that would pass muster with this blog’s Director of Security), but a whole bunch of photos are available over at a Mother in Israel’s blog, here and here.

In conclusion, I should stress that this post is meant neither to bash anyone nor to generate negativity. My point is simply that not very long ago, the Kotel experience was much more positive and uplifting for women, and there’s absolutely no reason why it can’t be recreated.

Your thoughts?
Please keep it civil. Thanks!


  1. A fascinating photo history.

    In general, the emphasis on place instead of on other mitzvot in general (tefillah, chesed, tzedakah, learning Torah, to name a few) bothers me.

  2. I love your take on the whole situation. I am finding the kotel wars, not to mention the endless op-eds and blogs from both sides, extremely tiresome!

    1. Bracha - Well said! "Extremely tiresome" is a perfect description of this whole issue.

  3. This post has been included in Shiloh Musings: Hot August Havel Havelim.  Please visit and share.
    Shabbat Shalom

    1. Thanks, Batya! Shabbat Shalom to you and your family!

  4. I just wish people would daven & let daven!!!

  5. I second Batya's statement and add that I wish that people could be more tolerant of each other in general. The irony and the cognitive dissonance of sinas chinam at the Kotel and about the Kotel in the name of spirituality deeply troubles me.

    Amazing photos . . . .

    1. Thanks, Laura.

      "The irony and the cognitive dissonance of sinas chinam at the Kotel and about the Kotel in the name of spirituality deeply troubles me."
      Exactly! It's also very strange that each of the sides seems to have missed this point.


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