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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Western Wall’

Netanyahu Tells Reform Jews that ‘Peace Is not One-Way Street

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial 2013 conference in a video address Sunday, “Peace is not a one-way street. It’s a two-way street” in his efforts for a peaceful solution to the Iranian and Palestinian Authority issues.

He also praised recent efforts to find a compromise solution to interdenominational conflict at the Western Wall and thanked the Reform movement for its efforts to strengthen Jewish identity and American Jews’ connection to Israel.

In large part, the speech repeated the principal points of Netanyahu’s address to the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly last month in Jerusalem. Netanyahu began by reiterating his frequent message that the best way to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is through maintaining economic sanctions alongside the threat of military attack.

Netanyahu said that Iran’s repression of civil rights at home, as well as its support for terror abroad; belie the friendly diplomatic posture its leaders have struck recently. “It talks the talk, but it walks the walk of death every day,” he said.

Addressing ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, the Prime Minister repeated his call for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He also emphasized the need for an agreement that will ensure Israel’s security.

WOW Blame Jewish Press, Bloggers, for Graffiti

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Read also: Orthodox & Reform Rabbis Condemn Arab Violence against Settlers

Last week, the home of Women of the Wall board member Peggy Cidor was attacked with graffiti. The graffiti read: “Petty, watch out” and “Women of the Wall are villains.” Ever since this incident, before a police investigation has even determined who the culprits are, Women of the Wall have started a media campaign falsely claiming that “right-wing Orthodox journalists and bloggers false accusations” against the Women of the Wall organization “directly cause a real, physical threat and danger to the lives of the women.” These slanderous statements have been published in the Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and all across social media.

As the journalist who broke the story about the Women of the Wall leadership’s connections to anti-Israel organizations, I would like to stress that neither my articles published in the Jewish Press and Jerusalem Online News nor that of Varda Epstein and Bat-Zion Susskind-Sacks in the Times of Israel, nor Jonathan Rosenblum in the Jerusalem Post, nor Gil Ronen in Arutz Sheva, nor Daniel Greenfield in Front Page Magazine are responsible for the graffiti. None of us support violence and we found out about the story in the media, just like every one else. I am sorry from the bottom of my heart that Peggy had to go through this.

However, I would like to emphasize that just because Peggy was the victim of a graffiti attack does not give Shira Pruce, spokeswoman of Women of the Wall, the right to make false accusations against her political opponents before any police investigation has been conducted, especially when there is zero evidence indicating that there is any connection between the recent media exposure connecting the Women of the Wall leadership to anti-Israel groups and the graffiti.

As Ronit Peskin of Women for the Wall asserted in an interview I conducted with her last week in Jerusalem Online News, “It could have been someone with a personal grudge against Peggy, rather than someone prompted by the leaderships connections to anti-Israel groups, especially given the fact that she was never mentioned in JPOST, Arutz Sheva, the Times of Israel, Front Page Magazine, the Jewish Press or any of the other news organizations that wrote about the connections between Women of the Wall and anti-Israel groups. Furthermore, she is a relatively unknown board member of Women of the Wall, who is not really mentioned in any media about the organization. This undermines the argument that the recent news articles exposing the Women of the Wall’s leadership to anti-Israel groups has something to do with the graffiti.”

In that interview, it was also revealed to me that Women of the Wall accused Women for the Wall of being responsible for the negative media exposure. I would like to take this opportunity to state that I am not in any way connected with Women for the Wall. I am an independent pro-Israel writer who is not part of any particular group either for or against women praying with tallits at the Kotel. My only interest as a journalist is to expose the truth to the public, so that they can have the information needed to make their own decisions. I would also like to add that it is my commitment to the truth and not my religious beliefs that caused me to expose the Women of the Wall’s leaderships’ connections to anti-Israel groups to begin with. I would have wanted to also write articles exposing the links of a Haredi organization such as Neuterai Karta whose leadership is connected to anti-Israel groups, if such links were not yet public knowledge.

I would also like to note that I only became familiar with Women for the Wall once I exposed the connections between Women of the Wall’s leadership and anti-Israel organizations. Before I took this step, I never heard of them nor met any of their leaders. Even though I now have sympathy for them as a fellow victim of Women of the Wall’s slander, I continue to remain independent from them.

Given that Women of the Wall continue to claim that I stated lies about them, I would like to ask them, why haven’t you produced the proof showing that your leadership is not associated with the organizations that I listed? And if no proof can be produced and there truly is nothing wrong with your leaderships’ connections to the organizations that I listed, why are you so disturbed that these connections have become public knowledge to the point that you threatened news organizations and when that failed, resorted to engaging in libel against those who spoke out against you?

I would like to add that had Women of the Wall not responded to my original story, my article would likely have remained only in one news source and quickly become old news. It only spread all over the internet once Shira Pruce decided to make a scandal out of it by threatening news organizations and then choosing to spread slander against her opponents instead of offering a proper rebuttal. Shira Pruce furthermore continues to refuse to mediate with Women for the Wall, to try and calm down the situation.

When I spoke to Shira Pruce on twitter, in an attempt to understand her logic, she defended her organizations connections to the New Israel Fund by claiming that attacking Women of the Wall was like attacking rape crisis centers because they also receive funding from them: “You attack WOW based on an association fallacy. I await your article attacking rape crisis centers.” The fact that the leaderships of rape crisis centers generally aren’t publicly active in anti-Israel causes on the side and don’t usually engage in highly politicized provocative actions doesn’t register with her.

Shira Pruce’s poor leadership was highlighted about a month ago when my story became public and her recent reactions demonstrate her unsuitability for the job once again. Once the graffiti became public knowledge, Women of the Wall had a chance to gain sympathy from every one, including me. They lost that golden opportunity by taking advantage of the spotlight to slander others without any kind of evidence to back up their claims. If Women of the Wall wants to be viewed as a credible organization, its time for them to find leadership not connected with anti-Israel groups and to choose a new spokeswoman that knows how to properly defend a cause that she professes to care about, instead of causing more damage to her organization.

British Rabbis Scold Orthodox Shul for Letting Women Hold Torah

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

The British organization of orthodox communities has scolded a London orthodox synagogue for allowing women to hold and pass around a Torah scroll in the women’s section during prayers on Shabbat.

The incident has caused far less sensation than the more extreme and public campaign of the so-called Women of the Wall, a group of approximately 100 women who for years have campaigned to claim that “equality” means they can not only hold a Torah Scroll but also can read it at the Western Wall, adjacent to the Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount, and in violation of the desires of most daily worshippers there.

Men, unlike women, have an obligation to pray in a minyan with at least nine other men and to hear the Torah scroll being read on Mondays, Thursday, holidays, Shabbat and holidays.

Women’s involvement in public prayer has become more pronounced in recent years, and orthodox Jewish “women’s only” minyans are not uncommon in the United States.

In almost all orthodox synagogues, the Torah scroll is taken out of the ark for reading and is carried through the men’s section, although women in many synagogues are able to touch it as it passes their sections.

The Golders Green United Synagogue has now allowed it to be handed over to a woman, who then passes it around the women’s section until it is returned for reading or to the ark.

Rabbis could raise the issue of Jewish law that perhaps a man cannot touch a Torah scroll that has been handled by a woman who is not ritually clean because of her menstrual period, but the overwhelming issue is the traditional separation of sexes and involvement in prayers as a matter of modesty. The fear is that once one traditional barrier is broken, all of the barriers will be battered down.

Professor Benny Chain, chairman of Golders Green United Synagogue, said, “People have said what an emotional experience it is and that they feel much more involved in the service,” the London Jewish Chronicle reported.

Rabbi Ephraim Padwa, head of the rabbinate of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, condemned the practice as “Reform-influenced,” explaining that women handling the Torah and “breaches of this nature” come “from the influence of the Reform.”

The issue in the Diaspora usually arises during Simchat Torah, following the holiday of Sukkot. Women in American communities in Israel and others in the United States hold their own minyan for the holiday, read from the Torah scrolls and dance with them, as men have done for centuries.

The most outstanding aspect of the event of women holding a Torah scroll in the Golders Green synagogue is that is has not captured attention among the anti-Orthodox crowd and media elsewhere.

The New York Times took it on itself this year to sponsor the Women of the Wall campaign on its pages, inciting the American Jewish community to fury over the very idea of women not having the “right” to disturb centuries of tradition  at the Western Wall, all in the name of democracy and not Judaism.

Their claim that the Western Wall is a public place, and therefore open to all, holds not water. The Western Wall is a synagogue and is legally under the authority of the Western Wall Rabbi, misguided or not in not allowing women to hold their own minyan in other areas that would not disturb the public at large.

Unlike the Women of the Wall, the carrying of the Torah scroll by women in an orthodox synagogue is not a political campaign and is far more of a challenge to orthodox Jewry in the Diaspora. It raises a far more serious challenge to Orthodox rabbis throughout the world.

In Israel, where most Jews are “secular” but observe many Jewish laws and are generally respectful of tradition, “women’s rights” is of far less interest, The New York Times and the Women of the Wall notwithstanding.

Paula Abdul to Celebrate Bat Mitzvah at Age 51 at Western Wall

Monday, October 28th, 2013

American singer, multi-platinum recording artist, choreographer, dancer, television personality, Grammy and two-time Emmy Award-winner Paula Abdul arrived on her first visit to Israel this week and plans to celebrate her Bat Mitzvah at the Western Wall, 39 years late.

She also will meet with President Shimon Peres on Tuesday.

Abdul was born in Los Angeles to Jewish parents. She once said, “My father is a Syrian Jew whose family immigrated to Brazil. My mother is Canadian with Jewish roots. My dream is to go to Israel for a real holiday.”

Israel’s Tourist Minister in 2006, Yitzchak Herzog, invited her to visit, which she said would be a “dream come true” but did not happen until this week. The visit may be a prelude to a singing performance next year, the Boycott Israel movement notwithstanding.

Abdul plans to visit major tourist sites in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Galilee and will explore Israel’s fashion, dance, culinary and music scene.

She began her  dancing career at the age of eight and became a sought-after choreographer before she began to compose music and sing. Abdul starred in the hit reality show about her life “Hey Paula” and, in recent years, has served as a judge on the popular American talent shows “American Idol” and “X-Factor.”

Mazel Tov, Paula.

High-Speed Train Planned to Whisk Passengers to Old City

Monday, October 21st, 2013

A high-speed train now under construction from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem may be extended to reach the Old City, according to an Israel Railways and the Transportation Ministry plan that will be stiffly opposed by Jerusalem planning authorities.

The planned line includes a 1.5 mile tunnel linking the central train station, being built across the street from the Central Bus Station, with the Mamilla mall that is located directly opposite the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City.

Planners are afraid that the planned rail line will take funds away from extending Jerusalem’s light rail system, which now consists of only one line. Three more lines are being planned.

Kotel Rabbi Gives Up and Tells Haredi Girls: Ignore Women’s Minyan

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz has requested that Haredi girls not fill the women’s section of the Kotel plaza the next time the Women of the Wall arrive to pray, perhaps on Friday.

“When Jews fight with each other at the Western Wall, there is no greater desecration of God’s name,” a statement from his office read.

A fragile compromise on multidenominational prayer has been taking shape through a committee convened by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and headed by Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky.

“Therefore we should await the decision of the committee, so that we can create order that will return calm and brotherhood to the Western Wall,” according to the rabbi’s statement.

The WoW may arrive to the area on Friday, the first of the two days marking the new Hebrew month of Cheshvan, although they have been granted their own prayer area at Robinson’s Arch, at the southern end of the Western Wall but less popular among tourists and visitors than the section at the plaza.

WoW spokeswoman Shira Pruce told The Jewish Press Wednesday that the agreement to allow women to reads the Torch and pray at a minyan at a more remote area is a solution that smacks of “separate and unequal.” She said that the women are adopting a “wait and see” policy on whether to accept the compromise since the government has not yet built the promised facilities for the women.

Regardless of where they pray on Friday, they will be without a Torah scroll, which is read during the morning prayers on the new month, because their scroll has been damaged by mold. The Jewish Press reported here on Wednesday that the Women of the Wall blame the government for the damage because there are inadequate storage facilities at Robinson’s Arch.

Haredi girls have swarmed the women’s section of the Western Wall Plaza in recent months to make it almost impossible for the smaller WoW group to organize, let alone sing out loud.

Following raucous protests from the men’s section, whistles, catcalls and even chair-throwing, Rabbi Rabinowitz has concluded, although very belatedly, that a “provocation” could upset the “sensitive security situation at the Temple Mount, which is now at its zenith.”

The JTA contributed to this report.

An IMAX Film of the Jerusalem You Never Have Seen Before (Video)

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Five years in the making, the first IMAX film ever made about Jerusalem is as much a visual tour de force as a marvel of cultural diplomacy.

“Jerusalem,” which had its world premiere last week at Boston’s Museum of Science, uses cutting-edge cinematography to immerse the audience in the ancient city’s historic sites from rarely seen perspectives.

Over the course of 45 minutes, viewers are treated to rare aerial views of the Old City as Jews gather at the Western Wall for the priestly blessing, Christian pilgrims march down the Via Dolorosa and Muslims gather at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the first Friday of Ramadan.

Distributed by National Geographic Entertainment, the film, narrated by the British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, will show on IMAX screens and in digital 3-D cinemas across the United States in the coming weeks.

Gaining access to some of the world’s most sensitive and contested locations was a test of devotion and artful negotiations that took the film’s three producers and a team of advisers years to accomplish. Preparations required dozens of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials, the Israeli army and the many clerics who control the city’s religious sites.

Filming from a low-altitude helicopter in the Old City of Jerusalem’s strict no-fly zone required a permit that had not been granted in more than 20 years, the filmmakers said, and acquiring the permit took eight months of negotiations.

In advance of the shooting, producers took out ads in the major Hebrew- and Arabic-language newspapers to notify residents about the helicopter filming.

“There was nothing that was not complicated,” Taran Davies, one of the film’s producers, said at the premiere.

Even the terrestrial shots were difficult to carry off. For the scene filmed at the Western Wall, an IMAX camera was mounted on a crane above the crowds.

The most challenging authorization by far was for the Temple Mount, known in Islam as the Muslim Noble Sanctuary, which required permission from the Islamic custodial body, the religious affairs ministry in Jordan and Israeli security forces.

A critical figure in helping the producers navigate the logistical maze was Ido Aharoni, now Israel’s consul general in New York. Aharoni first learned about the film six years ago when he directed Brand Israel, a project to promote Israel around the world.

He recognized the potential of portraying the country’s historical and cultural gems in such a visually powerful medium. IMAX films also typically screen in museums and can run for years.

“The whole purpose of the movie is to produce a visually awesome experience for the moviegoer who happens to be a museumgoer; it can’t be judged like any other movie,” Aharoni told JTA. “Realizing that, we told [the producers], ‘Whatever you need, we’ll help you.’ ”

The film’s mesmerizing visuals are woven into a narrative propelled by the voices of three teenage Jerusalemite women — Jewish, Christian and Muslim. Fluent in English, the women offer eloquent descriptions of the deep religious, cultural and family ties that bind them and their respective religions to their home city.

Though the film was carefully planned down to the last minute and camera angle, Daniel Ferguson, the film’s producer, writer and director, told JTA the teens’ words were their own.

“My goal is to promote understanding,” Ferguson told JTA. “The film will change assumptions and give a window into another point of view.”

The voices of the women are supplemented by that of Jodi Magness, an archaeologist at the University of North Carolina, who guides viewers through an ancient tunnel and visits active excavation sites that continue to unearth the history of the land.

The filmmakers took great pains to balance the presentation of all three religions, according to George Duffield, another producer with longstanding ties to Israel. He and Ferguson say they were at times pressed to take a position on controversial or political issues, but insisted on neutrality.

“Everyone wanted the film to be about their own faith,” Duffield said. “That’s how they see the city.”

The producers hope the film can be used to promote tolerance and understanding. Profits will be donated to the Jerusalem Foundation and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to underwrite projects that benefit all residents of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem’s Tower of David Museum in a still from the IMAX film “Jerusalem."

Jerusalem’s Tower of David Museum in a still from the IMAX film “Jerusalem.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/a-imax-film-of-the-jerusalem-you-never-have-seen-before/2013/10/03/

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