January 24, 2010
Dear Friends of IRAC (the Israel Religious Action Centre),
When I was on the Jerusalem city council, I gave a lot of thought to earthquakes. The seismologists had figured out that every eighty years an earthquake strikes Israel, and since the last major earthquake occurred in 1927, we are due for another one soon. Many things have not changed since my city council days - Israel was and is not prepared to deal with an earthquake and its aftermath. Only in 1980 did Israel start building according to earthquake safety codes. We are better prepared for biological or chemical warfare than we are for natural disaster.
The fault line runs from the Dead Sea, and into Jerusalem; it passes under Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Kotel. Some of the holiest structures in the world could be gone in one morning. And while my interrogation two weeks ago certainly rocked the Jewish world, it is nothing compared to what an earthquake could do.
I believe the greater tragedy would not be the destruction of holy structures, but the destruction of holy human life. The terrible earthquake in Haiti reminded me that too often we think about the stones of these structures, animating them with our thoughts, but forget about the lives being lived around them, and the individual spirits that fill them with prayer.
Women who pray out loud at the Kotel are told that their voices offend the very stones of the Wall - no mention that in the name of protecting the feelings of these sacred stones, a living woman can be made to feel marginalized and humiliated. Too often we forget about each other, we forget we're each alive.
This past week I've been moved in so many ways - by the heroic efforts of the Israeli emergency responders and by international aid relief efforts in Haiti, and more personally, by the outpouring of support we've received from around the world for Women of the Wall and religious pluralism.
From one of my favorite passages in Isaiah: “for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:1). The walls of the house can be built of anything, anywhere; it is the people who dwell there that count.