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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘wall women’

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.”

Women of the Wall ‘Corralled’ by Police, Drowned Out by Megaphones

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Women of the Wall blew a shofar at the back of the Western Wall Plaza and raised a Torah scroll at the plaza’s gate as they completed their service under a heavy police barricade.

Police wouldn’t let them bring a Torah scroll into the service, but before entering the plaza, the group sang as one woman held a scroll at the plaza’s gate.

One small step for woman holding scroll. No discernable big step for anybody.

Police acted on the side of caution, because, as they had done a month ago, thousands of seminary girls packed the plaza by the Wall and prayed quietly during Wednesday morning’s service.

None of the young women blew a shofar or pass the Torah around, but they did say Hallel, and Mussaf, quietly.

So police decided to barricade the 300 or so Women of the Wall and their male supporters at the back of the plaza, far away from the Wall, behind a heavy police barricade, a 15-foot buffer zone and two lines of police, according to the JTA report.

A WOW statement complained that they were “corralled into a small pen in the Western Wall Plaza, 150 meters from the Kotel. This, despite requests of Women of the Wall and MK Aliza Lavie, chair of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women (Lavie in a letter to Minister of Internal Security Aharonowitz), to allow women to pray freely, according to their tradition at the holy site.”

Photo credit: Miriam Alster

Photo credit: Miriam Alster

Meanwhile, over at the men’s section, Haredim blew whistles and chanted insults. One Haredi guy chanted psalms into a megaphone, disrupting the WOW service.

The WOW statement accused Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, appointed administrator of the Western Wall and holy places, of leading prayers and addressing worshipers over this loudspeaker while the WOW attempted to pray together.

“The sound system is for public use,” they wrote, “and yet never in 25 years has it been used on Rosh Chodesh, until last month. Rabinowitz chose to use his status to take a biased and discriminatory stance: to drown out women’s prayer in favor of his own.”

In other words, a kind of Mutually Assured Disturbance was observed by both sides.

Women of the Wall chair Anat Hoffman said, “We will not forget that the Torah is exiled from the Western Wall, due to the discriminatory misuse of power by Rabbi Rabinowitz. Israel is the only democracy in the world that by law prohibits women from reading Torah. Unfortunately, the only people who felt at home today at the Kotel were the ultra-Orthodox worshippers and the police and Rabinowitz collaborated towards this end.”

Except, whenever this reporter asks the WOW to comment on the similarities between their case and the exile of Jews from setting foot freely, much less praying, on the Temple Mount, they clam up and declare those are totally different things. Freedom is freedom is freedom, unless you are a religious hypocrite, with whom this country has been richly blessed.

JTA noted that over the two Rosh Chodesh days, last month and today, a new status quo has developed at the Wall during the Women of the Wall attempted service: Orthodox girls arrive en masse and pray quietly next to the Wall, Police place Women of the Wall under a heavy barricade, and protesters try to interrupt them.

Two months ago, the protesters were “raucous and violent,” meaning they threw chairs at the WOW, this time things were relatively civil. And by the time WOW leader Hoffman blew the shofar, most of the protesters had already dispersed.

“More than ten women blew shofar together at the Kotel, as is traditional in the Jewish month of Elul preceding the high holy days,” reads the WOW statement. “The sounding of the ram’s horn symbolizes Women of the Wall’s perseverance and determination to see justice for women at the Western Wall, in Israel and around the World.”

Not so much justice as a little bit of civility. You don’t want to be drowned out by megaphones, please don’t do stuff that upsets folks who have been davening here since 1967. It appears the WOW are learning a hard lesson of what happens when you really awaken a Haredi lion from his/her slumber. It’s been known to bite.

Let’s hope nobody forgot to say Ya’aleh V’yavo – which you can always say later, during benching.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/women-of-the-wall-corralled-by-police-drowned-out-by-megaphones/2013/08/07/

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