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Posts Tagged ‘kotel plaza’

Women of the Wall Searching for Next ‘Struggle’

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

A group of some 400 Haredim on Sunday morning demonstrated against the Women of the Wall’s prayer with talit and tefilin, in defiance of the ruling of the local rabbinic authority, in the plaza in front of the Kotel.

(For the record, Israeli media sources kept referring to the place as “Judaism’s holiest site,” which is intriguing, seeing as Judaism’s holiest site is a mere 20 feet up and a couple feet eastward from that plaza.)

The Haredim carried signs that read: “Women of the Provocation, you invented a new Judaism, go find yourselves a new Kotel.”

Photo: Israel Karlitz, News24

Photo: Israel Karlitz, News24

As a preventative measure, the police closed part of the upper plaza – above the prayer plazas, to keep the protesters away from the women’s section, and all the Women of the Wall were channeled into the plaza through a passageway running below the Mugrhabi bridge (which leads up the Temple Mount) where the Women of the Wall were allowed to pray there without interruption. Also, inside the women’s section, police closed off an area with metal barricades for the Women of the Wall, so their prayer not be disturbed.

This was the way Police prepared for the monthly event, and from a law-and-order perspective it made perfect sense. If two adversary groups are planning to demonstrate at the same time, the job of the crowd control police is to make sure they never reach one another.

But that was not creating the effect that the WOW were looking for – the epic struggle images. Because, let’s face it, a revolution is like a shark – if it stops struggling it dies. And so, if the courts are now permitting them prayer, they must find someone against whom they can struggle, and a bunch of Haredim with signs 200 yards away just won’t do.

They were planning to bring a Sefer Torah this morning, but, thank God, somehow that was thwarted. The Sefer Torah will very likely be featured in the struggles to come, because the struggle can’t stop.

So, if police brutality was no longer available, the struggle today was against the injustice of separating them from their adversaries, or, they tweeted it, their “encaging.” They tweeted: “A horrible feeling. What a shanda to encage women at the Kotel.”

More tweets: “Boker tov and chodesh tov! 250 of us are on our way to the Kotel! … We are entering the kotel with police escort … We have been caged off in the women’s section and the other women are taking pictures of us … Despite the shock of being enclosed and gawked at, our prayer is off to a beautiful start … What a frustrating, painful feeling. Women in a cage at the Kotel.”

Also: “As we pray we hear protest chants against us from men and women. There are more of Women of the Wall here than all other women combined.”

To which one unsympathetic follower tweeted: “Why don’t you stop tweeting and actually pray?”

Later: “During the Shema we remember that even though this month we are encaged, at least we are not being arrested”

And a surprise note: “Several rabbis have come down and ordered the men back to their yeshivot to learn. There is nothing to see here. Just women praying (and tweeting – YY).”

WOW_060910

We’ll see what happens on the first of the month of Av, a month practically dedicated to Jew on Jew hatred. If you ask me, the proper response from Haredim and Modern Orthodox should be to cede the “holiest plaza” on that morning. Let it look like a ghost town – and let’s all of us go up to the Temple Mount for Rosh Chodesh prayer, complete with the priestly blessing.

Let’s show the world where Judaism’s holiest site truly is, and what Jews are capable of doing up there.

The Sharansky Option

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Natan Sharansky has come up with a plan that he feels is a workable compromise between Charedim and heterodox movements. It will enable people to attend egalitarian prayer services (where men and women have equal stature in all ritual aspects of a Minyan) at the Kotel (the Western Wall), Israel’s holiest accessible site. I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu supports it.

There has been a lot of controversy at the Kotel in recent times where some women have tried to buck traditional practices at the Kotel by holding unusual services there. The Women of the Wall (WoW) have tried to have a monthly women’s prayer service there that includes such traditional male modalities as wearing a talit, and reading the Torah.

This has disturbed the Haredi world since it is such a wide departure from tradition – which has always dictated practices at the Kotel. They complained to the government. The government responded with new rules about a woman wearing a talit that has resulted in multiple arrests every Rosh Hodesh (new month of the Jewish calendar) when WOW tires to hold its services at the main plaza. It happened again a few days ago.

I have in the past argued against this group because I felt that they were more about demanding women’s religious rights than they were about serving God in ways they choose to do so. There was no rule against their having any type of service they choose at a different location along the Kotel called “Robinson’s Arch.” But they have chosen to do their service at the main Kotel Plaza and thereby upset the traditional worshipers there who feel that at best they are a distraction.

That these women are sincere in their devotion to God is somewhat undermined by their insistence that they use an area used by traditionalists who have always done their prayer services quietly and individually without drawing any attention to themselves.

The argument by WoW and their supporters is that people should have the right to pray anywhere they choose along the main Kotel Plaza and they insist on doing so to make a point of that.

I have come around to the view that these women should be left alone. As long as they are not disruptive – who cares if they are wearing a talit… or reading from the Torah?! At the same time if conflict can be avoided – it should be. If WoW could be given a place that is both free and similar in size to the main Kotel Plaza, I think they should take it and avoid any future conflict.

Sharansky’s proposal addresses another women’s issue – egalitarian minyan. This is not WoW. There are no men in their group. Technically I suppose there are no Halachic issues with WoW – other than breaking traditional non-Halachic taboos.

But feminism has given rise to egalitarianism in heterodox movements. In order to preserve the peace and accommodate both Haredim and those who seek egalitarian minyanim – he has proposed that Robinson’s Arch (which is out of view from the main Kotel plaza) be expanded so that its space equal that of the main Kotel Plaza… and that there be free access to it in the future. This would in essence be the actual realization of separate but equal rights for heterodox movements.

Just to be clear about mixed setting for prayer at the Kotel… I don’t think this is an issue. The only place where there is a requirement to separate the sexes via a mechitza (partition) is where there is Kedushat Beit HaKnesset. That means that only in a synagogue does a woman’s presence interfere with the minyan. Outside of a synagogue, women may be present… as is the case at weddings or banquets in hotels where there are ad hoc minyanim for Mincha and Maariv all the time. Women are present and in view of the men. They are not separated by any partition.

The question about whether the Kotel serves as a Shul has been answered by history. Archival photos show that in pre-state days going back to the 19th century – men and women were not separated when they came to pray at the Kotel. I do not therefore believe that the Kotel area can be classified as having Kedushat Beit HaKnesset.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/the-sharansky-option/2013/04/14/

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