BLOG 321 October 10, 2016
The past is always an important part of the present in Israel. The precedents set 2,000 years ago continue to effect what occurs in religious and political decisions today. Archeologists keep looking for pieces in the ever-growing puzzle. A fascinating part of this quest just turned up.
A gold coin struck somewhere around 56 AD (CE) with the image of the emperor Nero was found during an excavation on Mount Zion, just outside Jerusalem’s old city. An emperor for 14 years, Nero is remembered for killing his mother, executing Apostles Peter and Paul, and burning Rome. And now—Bingo! The countenance of his head surrounded by NERO CAESAR AVG IMP (implying Roman Imperial coinage) turns up in as pile of rubble from a first century Jewish villa. Amazing!
Within current Judaism, changes continue. In late March, the government made the decision to allow women and non-Orthodox Jews to have space to pray at the Western Wall. The High Court of Justice also made the decision that ordered the state to recognize conversions to Judaism that occurred beyond the purview of the Chief Rabbinate, meaning all converts could claim Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return.
The consequence of these rulings is that conversions within all Jewish communities are now valid in Israel. Whether it be Reformed, Conservative, or Orthodox groups, all are accepted within the state of Israel.
The monopoly that the Orthodox held over the state of Israel has been broken. When Israel was constituted a nation on May 16, 1948, the Orthodox grabbed the positions of authority and situated themselves in control of religious life and activities. Their subsequent involvement in Israeli politics kept them in place. Over the years the Reformed, Conservative, as well as women’s group protested this exclusivity. The Orthodox control has now been ended.
A group of women rabbis now called Women of the Wall also protested that they wanted a place at the Western Wall to pray and read the Torah scroll. They will now be able to do at the southern end of the wall.
A golden coin from the world of Nero and the contemporary world’s ever expanding inclusion of all positions and sexes reminds us that change continues in an on-going march.
However, Nero worked for exclusion; our world works for inclusion.