Religious correctness at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, or Wailing Wall, as it is known to Jews, is policed by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch. The rabbi “is responsible for religious decorum at the site.” More like religious indecorum.
“Ahead of Pope Benedict XVI’s May visit to Israel, the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitch, has said that it is not proper to come to the site wearing a cross,” reports the Jerusalem Post.
Naturally, “The pope wears a cross in all public appearances.” The Pontiff “is slated to visit the Western Wall on May 12 after a meeting with Muslim religious leaders …”
I wonder if these Muslims will emulate Jewish rudeness and request that the Pontiff remove his cross on entering the Dome of the Rock. This is the Muslim community’s opportunity to put Jews to shame. (I say this as a Jew who does not wish to see Jews qua Jews put to shame.)
“My position,” the boorish rabbi told The Jerusalem Post, “is that it is not fitting to enter the Western Wall area with religious symbols, including a cross. I feel the same way about a Jew putting on a tallit and phylacteries and going into a church.”
A boor and a bit of an idiot is Rabbi Rabinovitch, because it is not up to him to feel anything at all about the religious attire in which individuals wrap themselves on entering a church. It’s up to the proprietors of that establishment: Christian worshipers, their ministers, and other religious leaders. I bet they would not think to turn away worshipers or visitors, in tallit or turban, from entering their place of worship.
What a shame Jews must be embarrassed by this chap.
As I said, if Palestinian Muslims have any sense, they will seize on this bit of Jewish misbehavior to show their hospitality to “Benedict the Brave.”
Update (March 18): I spoke to my father, Rabbi Ben Isaacson, who resides in South Africa. He agreed with my assessment of Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, and went even further. Dad invoked the term Chilul Hashem, a pretty severe tack to take.
The idea is that a Jew’s behavior amounts to desecration of G-d when he brings shame on the community of Jews, and increases the likelihood of retaliation or negative reaction to Jews by his immoral acts. (“King Con” Bernie Madoff is beyond redemption in this sense.)
I Googled the Chilul Hashem concept and found this elegant explanation and argument. My father’s interpretation seems to approximate Rashi’s (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, 1040-1105 C.E.): “Why is it a chilul Hashem if others perceive us as acting immorally? The challenge is not against G-d but against us. Do we profane G-d’s Name because the non-Jew assumes that the Jew is acting pursuant to the Will of Hashem and thus Hashem must support such behaviour?”
Great logic all along. As you can see, one can be a non-believer (me), while being as Jewish as they come in so far as cherishing the wisdom and logic of this tradition.