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September 1, 2014 / 6 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Robinson’s Arch’

Women of the Wall Protesting Bennett’s High Holidays Plan

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

Minister of Religious Services Naftali Bennett announced on Sunday his support for the Mendelblit plan, drawn by the Prime Minister’s Office’s committee charged with the task of solving the problem of “inequality” at the Western Wall.

The committee is promoting a solution that utilizes a wooden balcony which has been built on scaffolding in the middle of Robinson’s Arch, near the Western Wall. The new section will permit mixed prayers of men and women and will be dubbed “Israel section.”

Women of the Wall are complaining that the plan will “effectively exile women and all Jews who pray in a way that is not ultra-Orthodox tradition to Robinson’s Arch and away from the area of the Western Wall where Jews have prayed for generations.”

According to WOW, should the new plan be executed, the government will be excluding more 50% of Jewish population to the “back of the bus.”

That’s a bit of a stretch, of course, since the majority of Israeli women feel quite comfortable in the women’s section – on those rare occasions when they show up at prayer services.

The new mixed prayer area outside the Kotel plaza in Jerusalem. Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

The new mixed prayer area outside the Kotel plaza in Jerusalem. Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

“Women of the Wall rejects the Mendelblit plan which dangerously circumvents the pluralist Sobel Disctrict Court decision,” WOW declared on Sunday. “We are at a crossroads for religious freedom and freedom of expression in Israel. Today this affects Women of the Wall but tomorrow it will affect every Israeli and Jew around the world. What has been proven today is that the bullies were victorious—with their assault, spitting and cursing at women. Mendelblit and Bennett have given in to the threats and violence of the Haredi extremist minority in Israel and this is a dangerous precedent for our democracy.”

WOW complain that, according to the proposed plan, the wooden stage erected at the center of the archaeological visitor’s center “is concerning only mixed prayer, and therefore does not provide a solution for Women of the Wall, a mixed women’s prayer section.”

An email they sent out Sunday contends that “The plan leaves control over the entire area in the hands of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, an organization run by a vast majority ultra-Orthodox men. The stage is in no way equal topographically or geographically to the original plaza, nor does it come close to the Wall itself, as it stands to the back of the Robinson’s Arch area. This plan is the very definition of separate, and not nearly close to equal, it provides an out of sight- out of mind solution silencing women at the Western Wall.”

The argument is strangely familiar, reminiscent of Jewish complaints about how the Jordanian Waqf has been controlling the Temple Mount – but any attempt to solicit from WOW an expression of empathy for Jews on the Mount have been met with staunch denial of similarity…

When all else is lost, WOW are appealing to the one true supporter they have in the current government – you guessed it:

“We call upon Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni to reject this plan, to demand equal rights for women to pray at the women’s section of the Western Wall. Women of the Wall is calling for a 24 hour sit-in at the Western Wall in the hopes that the government will reject this plan and support the District Court Decision in which all women can pray freely at the Western Wall.”

Archaeologists Find 2,000-Year-Old Evidence of Siege in Jerusalem

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Archaeological excavations near the Western Wall have unearthed three complete cooking pots and a small ceramic oil lamp that are the first pieces of evidence of the Jewish famine during the revolt during the siege of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.

The Israel Antiquities Authority is digging up history in excavations of the drainage channel that runs from the Shiloah Pool in the City of David to Robinson’s Arch, at the southern end of the Western Wall.

“This is the first time we are able to connect archaeological finds with the famine that occurred during the siege of Jerusalem at the time of the Great Revolt,” said excavation director Eli Shukrun.

The complete cooking pots and ceramic oil lamp, discovered inside a small cistern in a drainage channel, indicate that the people went down into the cistern where they secretly ate the food that was contained in the pots, without anyone seeing them, and this is consistent with the account provided by Josephus,” he explained.

In his book “The Jewish War,” Josephus describes the Roman siege of Jerusalem and in its wake the dire hunger that prevailed in the blockaded city.

In his dramatic description of the famine in Jerusalem he tells about the Jewish rebels who sought food in the homes of their fellow Jews in the city. Josephus said that the Jews concealed the food they possessed for fear it would be stolen by the rebels, and they ate in hidden places in their homes.

“As the famine grew worse, the frenzy of the partisans increased with it…. Nowhere was there corn to be seen, men broke into the houses and ransacked them. If they found some, they maltreated the occupants for saying there was none; if they did not, they suspected them of having hidden it more carefully and tortured them,” Josephus wrote.

“Many secretly exchanged their possessions for one measure of corn-wheat if they happened to be rich, barley if they were poor. They shut themselves up in the darkest corners of the their houses, where some through extreme hunger ate their grain as it was, others made bread, necessity and fear being their only guides. Nowhere was a table laid…”

The artifacts will be on display in a study conference on the City of David next Thursday.

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.

Paratroopers to Join Women of the Wall in Rosh Chodesh Prayers (Update)

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

On Monday, February 11, which is Rosh Chodesh Adar, the Women of the Kotel are planning to hold Rosh Chodesh services at the Kotel.

The law, as cited on the Women of the Wall’s website, prohibits “religious ceremony not according to local custom, which may hurt the feelings of the worshipers toward the place” at the Kotel. This rule was added, according to the same website, “especially to limit the worshiping of Women of the Wall, and violating it may result in a punishment of six to twelve months in prison or a fine of about $130.

Update: On Monday, the Women of the Wall will be joined by members of the 66th Battalion, the paratroopers who liberated Jerusalem and the Western Wall in the 1967 Six Day War. The men, 46 years later, have organized in support of Women of the Wall, to “continue to liberate the holy site and ensure religious freedom and freedom of worship for Jews at the Western Wall.”

An email released by WOW reads:

“We will meet at 7AM and it will be a historic moment at the Western Wall. The men who liberated the Wall in ’67 will stand up, stand with, Women of the Wall, despite the police and the authorities of the holy site, in the name of social justice, women’s rights and religious freedom. All of this, in the wake of the the latest Supreme Court petition as well as the process which Natan Sharansky is coordinating to research recommendations to Prime Minister Netanyahu in hopes of finding a solution to the inequalities at the wall, is creating a real potential for change in Israel- in pluralism, religious freedom, women’s rights and the inclusion of women in the public sphere.”

Great provocations and expressions of outrage are expected by many on all sides…

The Jewish Press inquired if the Women of the Wall are planning to later in the month read the Megillah at the Robinson Arch—away from the open part of the Kotel—or in the Ladies’ section by the Kotel.

Spokesperson Shira Pruce responded by email: “Yes, that is the plan. We have been doing this for years and there have never been any problems, protests or disturbances. We hope that this will still be the case this year but obviously, this past year has had many new challenges, so anything could happen.”

Last October, The Jewish Press polled its readers on the “Women at the Wall” who pray with Talit and Teffilin and read the Torah at the Kotel.

The biggest response, 39%, came from readers supporting the view that the women “have every right to pray at the Kotel whichever way they wish.

Second biggest, 24%, held the women “should respect the existing Orthodox prayer customs at the Kotel. And 9% encouraged them to pray at the Robinson’s Arch section of the Kotel, so they won’t offend the more traditional worshipers.

Only 5% thought they were a provocation and should be removed by force.

For a critique of Women of the Wall from an Orthodox point of view, read Trojan Horse at the Western Wall by Rabbi Avi Shafran.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/women-of-the-wall-to-hold-rosh-chodesh-prayers-by-the-kotel/2013/02/09/

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