The Shmooze

Justin Timberlake Prays at Western Wall

By JTA

Justin Timberlake landed in Israel and went straight to the Western Wall a day before his scheduled Tel Aviv concert.

Timberlake avoided most of the paparazzi, landing at 3 a.m. on Tuesday and heading straight to the wall with his wife, actress Jessica Biel, and his parents. He posted a photo of himself at the site on Instagram.

“The Holy Land… What an experience. I will never forget this day. #Israel,” he tweeted.

Timberlake is scheduled to perform Wednesday night at Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park as part of his 20/20 Experience World Tour.

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(Snow)Woman of the Wall

By Michael Kaplan

Facebook

Jerusalem’s children get to play in snow only about once every 7 years. But when they do get that chance — as they did this past weekend as the country fell under a sheet of white ice — they take to it like pros.

Facebook and Twitter lit up with photos uploaded from millennials from across the Middle East of the historic snowstorm. And the flurry of excitement also opened way for the divided city’s Arabs and Jews, as well as religiously zealous and secularists alike, to come together for some winter fun.

Political and social groups wanted in on the excitement, too.

Women of the Wall, a feminist group that has been pushing for expanded freedoms for Jewish women to pray at the Western Wall, found their own special way to capitalize upon the moment.

On December 11, their Facebook status put out a call:

“It might snow in Jerusalem! Who is volunteering to go build Snow Woman of the Wall #2?! Remember?!?!”

And sure enough, within a day, the call had been heeded. A snow woman — sporting a pink babushka, a tallit, cucumber-eyes, and a carrot-nose — welcomed visitors at the gender-neutral entrance to the wall.

The group, controversial in a city where gender boundaries are stark and defined, told the Jerusalem Post that the tallit-wearing snow woman was shaped only in jest, and was not meant as a provocative political statement.

Backing their statement, the pictures online of prayer-goers posing with the icy lady confirm what many of us already knew: it’s pretty hard to get riled up over a snow woman.

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No Kotel Bat Mitzvah for Paula Abdul

By JTA

Paula Abdul canceled her much-hyped bat mitzvah at the Western Wall, opting instead for a low-key ceremony in the town of Safed, The Times of Israel reports.

Per Israel’s Tourism Industry, which hosted the former “American Idol” and “The X-Factor” judge, the switch was due to jet lag. But the officiating rabbi, Eyal Riess of the Tzfat Kabbalah Center, claims it was to avoid the media.

Either way, the deed is done. Mazel Tov! Now she can go relax…

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And on The Ninth Day, They Prayed

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

Yesterday evening marked the beginning of Tisha B’Av, the annual fast day which commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples and the subsequent exile of the Jews from the Holy Land.

Regarded as the saddest day in the Jewish calendars, all pleasurable activities are forbidden. As in a period of mourning, there is no eating, no drinking, no bathing, no leather shoes, and no sexual activity.

Once all that’s ruled out, what is there left to do? Well, the thousands of Jews who spent the night at the Western Wall in Jerusalem last night provided the answer: prayer — and a little shut-eye.

Splayed out in rows or curled up in corners, the faithful grabbed 40 winks where they could:

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Want to be Closer to the Kotel? There’s an App for That

By Michael Kaminer

Using your iPhone to place a note inside the Western Wall sounds terrific, except for squeezing the mobile device into one of those crannies.

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which administers the wall, has a better idea: A new iPhone app that “allows users to send e-mails to be placed in the crevices of the old wall, a Jewish custom,” according to the Associated Press. The messages won’t just be symbolic gestures; “both the notes that are received through the website and those that are received on the new iPhone application are printed out and are physically placed between the stones of the Western Wall,” the Foundation’s Mimi Schler told the Forward in an e-mail.

The app “streams live from the site around the clock,” the AP reports, except on the Sabbath and holidays, when transmissions are forbidden. “It also includes a compass that allows users to pray in the direction of Jerusalem, another Jewish practice.” The Western Wall rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, welcomed the initiative, according to Israel news site ArutzSheva. “The Western Wall has been in the heart of every Jew in the world for 2,000 years,” he said. “It is only natural that in the technological age there will be ways to express the love and devotion of the Jewish people to the Western Wall and to Jerusalem. We hope that the new application will strengthen the younger generation’s bond to the Kotel.”

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The Western Wall's Makeover

By Lauren F. Friedman

The Western Wall is very, very old, and no one seems to mind. (In, fact, that’s kind of the point.) But it’s about to get two decidedly un-Biblical upgrades.

As reported in The Jerusalem Post, the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee is currently considering a proposal to build an elevator and pedestrian tunnel that would ease access to the Kotel, which now must be reached by several flights of stairs or the Dung Gate road, which has no sidewalks. That’s not ideal for people with strollers, gray hair, disabilities or uncomfortable shoes.

“The idea is to make a simple connection between the Jewish Quarter and the Kotel. We want to make the Kotel more accessible to people with disabilities, or even large families with baby carriages,” Daniel Shukuron, the director of the company behind the proposal, told the Post.

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