A Wall shouldnt divide us

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Forty years ago, Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus, defying federal law, ordered state militia troops to Little Rock to stop nine black students from entering Central High School. At the time, the governor said he was sending in the troops for the black students' "protection."

This year in Jerusalem, first on Shavuot and again on the eve of Tisha B'Av, a group of liberal Jews, men and women, gathered at the Western Wall plaza. The mainly Conservative minyan was there not simply to pray but also to proclaim their right to do so.

They were certainly horrified to find their prayer services greeted by mobs of ultra-religious Jews, who hurled excrement and shouted expletives at them on Shavuot, and then drowned out their prayers on Tisha B'Av. But even less tolerable to the liberal minyan were the responses of Jerusalem's Police Chief Yair Yitzhaki.

Blaming the liberal Jews for provoking the demonstrations, he sent in police to evacuate them on Tisha B'Av, telling them it was for their own protection.

At Shavuot, Jerusalem Mayor Haim Miller said "the very fact that the Conservative Jews, who symbolize the destruction of the Jewish people, came to the place that is holiest to the Jewish people is a provocation."

Forty years ago at Little Rock, blacks were insisting that separate was not equal. Today liberal Jews are demanding freedom of religious expression — for all Jews.

Forty years ago, the demonstrators were white supremacists, fearing the inevitable end of segregation. Today, the attackers are ultra-religious Jews, fearing the demise of traditional worship.

And while we as Jews may respect their concerns, we denounce their actions. Some leading ultra-religious rabbis are putting up posters asking their followers to refrain from acts of violence. More such steps are needed.

We call upon religious leaders to condemn such acts. We call upon Jerusalem's municipal officials to arrest and remove the rioters. We call upon Israeli leaders to open Jewish holy sites to all Jews. We cannot allow a Wall to divide the Jewish people.