Yesterday morning a 220-pound boulder was dislodged from the Western Wall and fell to the ground near Robinson’s Arch, a site currently used for egalitarian prayer. Fortunately, it missed 79-year-old Daniella Goldberg by mere inches. Unfortunately, it inspired some in Israel to see the incident as a portent of divine wrath.
“We must not explain and interpret natural phenomena as signs from heaven, as the ways of the Creator are hidden,” said Jerusalem’s deputy mayor, Dov Kalmanovich, before rushing to explain and interpret natural phenomena as signs from heaven: “The falling of one of the Western Wall stones, so close to Tisha B’Av, and exactly at the location of the controversial prayer area, should be a red light for us all,” Kalmanovich said. “I suggest that Reform leaders, Women of the Wall, and the other quarrel-mongers examine themselves, and not the Wall.”
Never mind the fact that it is always a very good idea to examine a wall whenever its boulders begin to tumble down to the ground, Kalmanovich’s claim is strange. How, pray tell, does the deputy mayor know that the omen is a warning against the quarrel-mongers? What if it’s a sign that the quarrel-mongers are correct in the quarrel-mongering, and that God wishes to see all his children, men and women alike, welcome anywhere at the Wall? Or maybe it’s the Almighty telling us that we are all quarrel-mongers, and He’s very upset at us for turning this holy space into a place of dispute and is about to resume some old fashioned smiting unless we mend our ways? After all, could there be a more literal manifestation of the central idea of Tisha B’Av—that the ancient Temple was destroyed because of Sinat Hinam, or baseless hatred—than the closest thing we have to a remnant from said Temple collapsing the morning after the holy day right at the place that’s in the center of the egalitarian prayer controversy? Go figure.
Meanwhile, it’s comforting to know that a very earthly authority, the Israel Antiquities Authority, has dispatched a team of archaeologists, engineers, and other experts to examine the area. Amen to that.