Just this past week, Israelis and Jews around the world marked the day that has come to known as Yom Yerushalayim, a semi-holiday celebrating the reuniting of East and West Jerusalem during the 6 day war in 1967. Though Yom Yerushalayim is not an entirely uncomplicated commemoration (see, for example, Rabbi Jill Jacob’s critical comments on the day) one positive good that came from the victory of the IDF in Jerusalem over mostly Jordanian forces was the opening of the Old City to Jews. For the first time I many years, Jews could freely walk through the Jerusalem’s Old City and could visit the kotel, a small section of a wall of the Temple courtyard. This section of wall had long been considered an auspicious place to visit and pray, given its proximity to the Temple Mount. In the years after 1967, the kotel became a full-fledged pilgrimage site for Jewish visitors to Israel, and any time of the day or night one can go there and find people engaged in prayer, contemplation or begging for money.
But the wall is also a contested space. Having been declared a synagogue by the State of Israel, the wall has a rabbi, and functions as an Orthodox synagogue: there is a mechitza, and women are not allowed to engage in certain types of prayer. Over the years, a group called Women of the Wall has tried to challenge some of these rules, and their efforts are often meant with anger and sometimes violence. After a Supreme Court ruling prohibited certain types of prayer by women, attempts by Women of the Wall to challenge some of those rules have also been met with police action.
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