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Tumbling Walls

Man is a great wall builder
The Berlin Wall
The Wailing Wall of Jerusalem
But the wall most impregnable
Has a moat
flowing with fright
around his heart
A wall without windows for the spirit to breeze through
without a door for love to walk in.

These few lines of poetry by the South African writer Oswald Mtshali perplexed me until this past week. Of all the walls erected by the “great wall builder” why choose the Berlin Wall and the Wailing Wall?  I found this blog post which eloquently framed the question:

“The poet’s thesis is obviously marred in the development since the two examples he provides are mutually inconsistent. The Berlin Wall and the Wailing Wall have nothing in common with one another, the former a gross totalitarian structure meant to immure and enslave, and the latter an archeological temple remnant signifying the transcendence of faith.”

While Mtshali may have had other associations that connect the Berlin and Wailing Walls in his mind, for me the answer came this week—a wall came tumbling down in Jerusalem though no stone or concrete was broken or taken apart.

This impregnable wall has stood longer than the Berlin Wall—it is a wall flowing with fright, without a door for love.  The wall in question is not the Wailing Wall itself, a visible wall much like the Berlin Wall of old. This wall becomes visible only when women gather to pray in ways they feel express their full (and equal) Jewish participation. It is a wall of spit, a wall of derision, a wall of refusing access.

This wall though is not only found in Jerusalem. This wall remains erect in every plaza or public place, in every business and profession and in every place of worship where windows are not open or receptive to the breeze of gender equality.

So, the Women of the Wall, as they are known, who have been spat upon, derided and denied access, can celebrate a small and important step in being granted space at the Wailing Wall and, thereby, fulfilling their mission “to change the status-quo that prevents women to pray freely at the Wall.” Their mission statement though continues beyond addressing the ‘Wall.” These courageous women realize that the more entrenched wall is the moat of fear and insecurity surrounding man’s heart—a fear of giving women equal voice, equal say, equal access and equal respect.


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