Rabbi Avi Shafron mentions the importance of empathy in his article (“Halachah must rule at the Western Wall, but empathy is the most important factor,” AJP, 1.11.13, but, in my opinion, he does not demonstrate empathy and respect to either Anat Hoffman or to Jews who may think and practice differently from his Orthodox constituency.
The fallacy of his argument is that when the Second Temple was in place there was a unified approach to Judaism that mirrors the practices of Orthodox Jews today. Indeed, if we were to return to the practices during Second Tempe times Jews would not be praying in the manner that Rabbi Shafran describes, but rather bringing animals and grains to the priests for sacrifice. Indeed during Second Temple times there was, as today, many different approaches to Judaism, and great debate about which was the most proper practice. Judaism has survived, in great part, as a result of our ability to adapt to the times and the situations that Jews have faced throughout our history.
I do agree with Rabbi Shafron that the Kotel is an important artifact of our great Jewish heritage. I further suggest it is one that should be inclusive to the wide ranging ideas of modern Judaism.
–Rabbi Jack Silver, Tempe, Ariz.