Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Kotel Isn't a Parking Lot!

I was at the Kotel this morning. It had this festive carnival like atmosphere. Over the summer, Mondays and Thursdays there are so busy with bar-mitzvah parties visiting. Along with barmitzva visitors come a whole string of entertainers. There are the Breslav people who are giving out various charms (for money) and a klezmer trio as one enters the electronic gates. A new group are white robed, tanach-look, darbuka players and shofar blowers who will give a song performance or even herald the entrance of the bar-mitzva boy and procession into the Kotel compound. Quite a scene! Minharot Hakotel is mobbed with groups entering every fifteen minutes as families book a tour alongside their simcha. It is nice to see the place alive.

Currently the kotel Plaza looks a wreck. at the back are extensive excavations - I assume uncovering second-Temple remains - but half the Plaza is sectioned off and enshrouded in white curtains to block access to the excavations. Then there are dirt trucks, and concrete mixers, delivery trucks carrying wood , all to service the excavations. All that is at the back of the plaza. At the side is the makeshift ramp which should be removed soon.

But my real pet hate is the fact that a large proportion of the plaza is now used for parking. In the past years the number of cars there has incresed steadily. I think it began in the intifada when security presence was increased but it has by now reached horrible proportions where from the security gates until the line of the Women's section is one big parking zone. It looks just awful. It is absolutely inappropriate for the Kotel! Why...Why should our prime prayer site in Yerushalayim become a parking lot? Where is the dignity of the place? Who is in charge? (Does anyone know to whom I can write a letter of complaint?) I will add that I am deeply bothered that throughout the Old City where the lovely squares and roads of the Jewish Quarter have become awash with parked cars thus seriously ruining the beauty and atmosphere of the place. It was not always this way. There have been periods where the streets of the Old City were car-free. (And I am aware that there is a massive parking problem for Old City residents, but we have only one Old City! and families must take it into account when they buy there.)

Back to the kotel. The excavations will finish. The ramp is only temporary. Let us also get rid of the cars that dominate the kotel plaza and restore the place to the dignified place that it should be for all the Jewish people.

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