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June 28, 2016 / 22 Sivan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Women of the Wall’

WoW Miss their Chance for Equality at Kotel Priestly Blessing

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

Tens of thousands of Jews prayed at the Western Wall Sunday, the fourth day of Sukkot, and received the traditional priestly blessing of dozens of Kohenim, but no Women of the Wall tried to join.

Kohenim are of the priestly tribe traced to the Biblical High Priest Aaron.

The Women of the Wall have campaigned vigorously the past year to pressure for the same religious standing of men to read from a Torah scroll and wear tefillin at the Western Wall. They have succeeded in winning the right to pray as they wish at the southern section of the Western Wall, known as Robinson’s Arch and not adjacent to the more widely-known section of the Wall.

So why didn’t they try to prove again that “equal” mean the “same” and presume they are Kohenim. Don’t Reform Jews deserve their blessing?

The Reform movement generally maintains a policy of “equality” and rejects the distinctions between Kohenim and other Israeli tribes, but some Reform and Conservative prayer groups allow the daughter of a Kohen to perform the Priestly Blessing.

The same prayer groups also call a daughter of a Kohen to the reading of the Torah, in place of the traditional recognition of a Kohen for the Torah portion that is chanted in Israel on the Sabbath, holidays, Rosh Chodesh (the beginning of the month and on Mondays and Thursdays.

The Kohenim were active in sacrifices in the Holy Temples, and Reform and Conservative thought concludes that since the Temples have been destroyed and there are no sacrifices today, the designation of a Kohen is either out of date or is not restricted to men. The Conservative movement is split with two opposing opinions on whether a daughter of a Kohen can perform the Priestly Blessing.

Most Reform and Conservative congregations omit the Priestly Blessing, which in Orthodox congregations in the Diaspora are performed only on the three festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. The blessing is recited toward the end of the additional Musaf prayers. Reform Jews usually don’t bother themselves with praying too much, and they delete Musaf.

Reform Rabbi Jeffrey W. Goldwasser posted on a website “More liberal communities, those that insist on thorough gender equality, do not observe the distinction of Kohanim and Levi’im at all.”

Reform Jews, with their 11th Commandment of equality, declare that all Jews are equal in their functions as Jews. All of us are the same. Everyone is a priest, everyone can wear tefillin, everyone can read from the Torah, and everyone can do pretty much as he or she pleases.

That begs one question: If all are equal, if Jewish law rejects the Torah as the living law of today, and if every Jew can understand the Torah as he wants, why is there such a thing as a Reform “rabbi”?

So much for equality.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Jordan Calls ‘Women of the Wall’ Prayer Site an ‘Attack on Islam’

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Jordan has condemned the plan for a new area at the Western Wall to accommodate the Women of the Wall organization’s demand for an area for them to pray in an “egalitarian” minyan in which they can wear tefillin and read from a Torah scroll. Orthodox Judaism considers women as “equal but not the same” as men, who have an obligation to wear tefillin and pray in a minyan.

Their campaign offended Haredim and many Orthodox Jews, but with broad support from the Diaspora and media outlets that love issues of quality and women’s rights without knowing what they are talking about, The Women of the Wall succeeded.

Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, appointed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to come up with a solution for the women without causing a religious war at the Western Wall, came up with a compromise for the women to pray as they wish at the southern section of the Wall, known as the Kotel.

The WoW were not happy with the compromise, but that is another story.

More urgent, Jordan also is not happy.

The women forgot that although the Western Wall is the city of Jerusalem, totally under Israeli sovereignty, Jordan thinks differently, despite the peace treaty with Israel.

It states that Israel “respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem…. The Parties will act together to promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions, with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, freedom of religious worship, and tolerance and peace.”

Israel has recognized Jordan as the “custodian” of the Al Aqsa mosque built over the ruins of the Holy Temples.

However, Israel did not take into consideration that Yasser Arafat would start a terrorist war to declare the Jewish Quarter of the Old City the capital of a new Arab state. Nor did it take into account that his successor Mahmoud Abbas is as much too clever politician.

Earlier this year, while Israel assumed that the PA was slowing crumbling into non-existence economically and politically, Abbas’ adviser Adnan Husseini declared that the Western Wall “is part of Islamic heritage that cannot be given up, and it must be under Muslim control.”

This past March 31, Abbas and King Abdullah reached an agreement that “His Majesty King ‘Abdullah II, as the custodian of the Jerusalem holy sites, will exert all possible efforts to preserve [these] sites, especially Al-Haram Al-Sharif [The Al-Aqsa Mosque]… and to represent their interests.” The agreement states further that King ‘Abdullah is responsible for ensuring respect for the holy places, guaranteeing the Muslims’ freedom of movement to and from the sites, ensuring their maintenance and representing their interests in the international arena.”

The catch is what is a “Muslim site?”

The Arab world has spent the past few years to translate history into fiction and declare that the Western Wall is a Muslim  site. So who are these uppity Jewish women, Orthodox, Reform or otherwise, to have the chutzpa to make a change at a supposed Muslim site without consulting with the “Custodian”?

Jordanian Minister for Media Affairs, Mohammad Momani condemned Israel’s “construction of a stage in the southern part of the Buraq Square which is adjacent to Al Aqsa-Mosque’s wall,” the Petra News Agency reported Monday.

Note that the Western Wall is now “Al Aqsa Mosque’s Wall,” the one where holy Arabs claim the  holy Mohammed tied his holy horse.

“Momani, who is also government spokesman, said the move is a blatant attack on the Muslim monuments and Waqf land which is an integral part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, demanding Israeli occupation authorities to remove the stage and the damage it caused as soon as possible,” the news agency reported.

Furthermore, “The minister stressed Jordan’s stance in exerting political, diplomatic and legal efforts to protect and care for Muslim and Christian sanctities [sic] in Jerusalem.

“Momani warned of Jewish settlers and extremists’ continued call to storm the Al-Aqsa Mosque under the pretext of Jewish holidays, expressing regret over Israel’s disregard of international conventions and resolutions.”

Are the Women of the Wall listening?

Jordan’s policy is “to protect and care for Muslim and Christian ‘sanctities’ in Jerusalem.”

There is one word missing: Jewish.

The Women of the Wall never even dreamed about praying at the Kotel during the Jordanian Occupation, when Jews and Christians were prohibited from visiting holy places. Jordan has made lots of progress since then.

Now it is willing to open up holy places for Christians, and the Jews can wait for the next peace treaty.

As for the Jews “storming” the Temple Mount, that is the de rigeur term now used by the Arab press when police and Muslim escort Jews to make sure they do not commit the crime of taking a prayer book with them while ascending the Temple Mount.

The Women of the Wall have not spoken out about the discrimination against Jews trying to pray on the Temple Mount.

They have said they are focused on their own self-acclaimed rights.

The Women of the Wall, most of them Americans, do not understand with whom they are dealing. Haredim are not their enemies. Judaism is not their enemy.

Their enemies are those who demand that Jews stop being Jews.

Once they understand that, perhaps King Abdullah and Abbas will understand that while can get what they want if they deal with the Israeli government, they should never test the wrath of women.

Maybe Israel should consider sending the Women of the Wall to negotiate with Abbas.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Doing Battle with WoW

Friday, August 30th, 2013

I am truly saddened that this issue has blown up to such an extent. It appears that the fight between the Women of the Wall and their opponents has escalated.

It began as a few women who found the male modality of wearing a Talis and Teffilin the most meaningful form of prayer for themselves. They showed up at the Kotel one day on a Rosh Chodesh. Rosh Chodesh is the first day of every month on the lunar calendar. That day requires special prayers and a Torah reading. Their goal was to pray there once a month in their own way – peculiar and upsetting though it may be to traditionalists.

That spawned protests… which spawned arrests of some of these women who at the time technically violated the law (since overturned by the court)… which spawned increased numbers of women joining WoW on their monthly prayer service there. That spawned a call by rabbinic leaders for Charedi women – mostly from women’s seminaries – to show up by the hundreds if not thousands, flood the Kotel Plaza, and pray there quietly.

Their overflowing numbers beat WoW to the punch there and left them no space to pray. That event also brought out the worst in some of the male Charedi protestors who acted like a bunch of wild animals – yelling, screaming, and throwing things at these women. That spawned more determination than ever for WoW to achieve their goals of equal rights to the Kotel. From the Forward:

Jewish Voices Together, founded and headed by Iris Richman, a Conservative rabbi and attorney, has organized rallies in support of Women of the Wall at various locations around the U.S. The organization comprises female rabbis of all denominations.

The title of its latest campaign is “100 blasts of the shofar/100 rabbinic voices for justice! Speak out for religious tolerance in Israel and Women of the Wall” – and its goal is to get 100 rabbis in the U.S. to devote their sermons over the upcoming Jewish holidays to women’s prayer rights in Israel. According to Richman, the effort has already surpassed that milestone, with 127 rabbis, as of this writing, agreeing to participate. Among the participants are 64 Conservative rabbis, 38 Reform and two Orthodox.

As I have said many times, I am not a fan of WoW. Although I know that many of its members are sincere in their desire to pray in this unusual way; and simply want to be left alone to do so, I cannot say the same thing for WoW’s leadership. They have consistently been quoted as having the real goal of religious tolerance, pluralism, and mostly feminism. WoW is simply a clever means so get this done. They have found a way to technically not violate Halacha and thereby recruit the left wing segments of Orthodoxy to support them. And as this new development shows, they are gaining traction.

That feminism is at the core of this issue is not mere speculation. For these leaders this is a feminist issue. The New Republic has a lengthy article pointing to WoW as the “highest example of the renewed fighting feminist spirit in Israel”. They describe this as a new alliance between left wing Orthodox feminist groups like Kolech and the Reform movement’s IRAC (Israel Religious Action Center).

(I should add that such coalitions were bred by some of the more disgusting attacks by extremist Charedim against non Charedim. Attacks that seem to be coming with more frequency these days. Reading about the multiple attacks against Nili Philipp, a Dati Leumi religious woman living in Bet Shemesh, made my blood boil. And this happened a year after 8 year old Naama Margolese was attacked by the same kind of people! This is a far bigger problem in my view that has yet to be properly addressed – but it is beyond the scope of this post.)

The more public opposition WoW gets from the right, the more support it will gain from the left. Left Wing Orthodox organizations like Yeshivat Chovevei Torah whose founder and leaders have rejected the ruling by Rav Soloveitchik about joining heterodox movements on religious issues and now enthusiastically joins them – have added Orthodox legitimacy to WoW’s ranks. So a Rabbi on the far left of Orthodoxy will feel very comfortable joining WoW in their quest for equal rights at the Kotel.

Harry Maryles

Sharansky to Reveal Full Western Wall Plan in Two Weeks

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky will release his full plan for a compromise among religious groups at the Western Wall in two weeks, Haaretz   reported.

Under Sharansky’s plan, first reported in April, an existing egalitarian section of the wall known as Robinson’s Arch would be expanded and a unified entrance would be built leading to the wall’s traditional and egalitarian sections. Robinson’s Arch would be open at all times, as opposed to now, when it is open for a few hours per day.

The expanded section for egalitarian prayer would be run by a joint commission of the Israeli government, the Jewish Agency and representatives of world Jewry. The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which runs the current Western Wall Plaza, would continue to run the traditional section.

JTA

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.

Yori Yanover

Western Wall Rabbi: Respect the Muslims, Don’t Come to Pray

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Haredi men and women and the Women of the Wall movement made their monthly commotion at the Western Wall Wednesday morning,  ignoring pleas from the Western Wall rabbi to show “sensitivity” to Muslims and not to pray at the holy site.

The Women of the Wall also rejected a police request not to come with Tefillin, which are not used by women in traditional Judaism. However, police have successfully barred Jews from ascending the Temple Mount the entire week.

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz published a letter Tuesday, emphasizing “sensitivity and security at the conclusion of the month of Ramadan”, the Muslim holy month that concludes this week. Tens of thousands of Muslims crowd the Temple Mount for Muslim prayers in Ramadan, especially at the beginning and the end of the month.

Rabbi Rabinowitz has failed in the past to keep the Women of the Wall (WoW) away from the Kotel,  but his using “sensitivity to Muslims” as an excuse is exactly the kind of Ghetto mentality that has allowed Arabs to squeeze out political and religious concessions from Jews for decades.

The unprecedented closure of the Temple Mount to Jews for an entire week was a victory for the Waqf, the Muslim authority that runs the holy site to which Israel has surrendered de facto sovereignty. Harassment, insults and riots by Palestinian Authority Muslims have occasionally forced Jews to leave the Temple Mount, but they have become routine in recent weeks.

Police have allowed the violence to win the day, and Rabbi Rabinowitz’s “sensitivity” to Muslims broadcasts a strong signal that Jews are willing to give up their rights if it means causing a commotion.

Ironically, it is the Women of the Wall and Haredim who are not surrendering. Approximately 250 women showed up at the Western Wall Wednesday morning, which is the first fay of the Hebrew month of Elul and the first day of daily shofar blowing until the day before Rosh HaShanah, except for Shabbat.

An unusually large number of Haredim also showed up and filled up the women’s section, preventing the Women of the Wall from praying there.

Police also stopped a woman from breaking the rules of the Western Wall by bringing a Sefer Torah into the prayer area. The only Torah scrolls that are allowed to be used are those that already are in place, and, of course, Rabbi Rabinowitz does not allow women to use one of the Western Wall scrolls.

However, he had no problem breaking the rules and allowing Haredim to use a megaphone so they could pray louder and blow their whistles louder in order to aggravate the women.

Between the women’s singing and the whistles and shouts of the Haredim, the shofar sounded, heralding the People of Israel to repent for their sins towards the High Holy Days.

The Muslims, instead of scratching their heads at the absurdity of politics disguised by a costume of prayer  at the Western Wall, are probably celebrating the end of Ramadan as the first blow against true Jewish prayer at the Western Wall.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Protesters: Police in Cahoots with Arabs over Jewish Access to Mount

Monday, August 5th, 2013

The Joint Committee of Temple Mount Organizations has announced a protest vigil this Wednesday, August 7, at 7:30 AM, by the Mugrabi Bridge connecting the Western Wall plaza with the Mughrabi Gate of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

According to the organizers, which include journalist Arnon Segal and Women in Green founders Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katsover, the vigil will be held in response to an announcement last Tuesday by the Police official in charge of the holy sites, Commander Avi Bitton, that the Temple Mount would remain open only to Muslims and closed to Jews and to tourists at least until after the Muslim holiday of Idl-Fitter, next Sunday, the fifth of Elul or August 11.

This is breaking the rules, cry out the organizers, members of organizations promoting Jewish presence on the Temple Mount, warning that Jerusalem Police has already violated the long held status quo by shutting off the Temple Site to non-Muslims throughout the month of Ramadan.

This past month, the vigil organizers complain that on those few days when Jews were allowed to go up to the Mount, they suffered constant abuse by the Muslims and by the police.

Two weeks ago, Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin was chased away from the Temple Mount by a crowd of Muslims. According to the vigil organizers, police did not intervene to prevent the “screaming and harassment and threats by the Muslims against Elkin and his family.”

But the biggest complaint of the organizers has to do with the fact that the Arabs have, apparently, discovered the surefire method of keeping the Jews off the Mount – all they have to do is threaten violence, and the police immediately folds, and rather than responding to the bullies by imposing law and order—a fairly basic expectation of our law enforcement agencies—they join forces with them to block Jewish access.

It’s been ten years, the protesters say, since the Temple mount was re-opened to Jewish visitors—not for prayer, mind you, God forbid—and now they fear the permanent sealing off of the holiest Jewish site bar none appears closer than ever.

“It seems the police is throwing a trial balloon,” reads the organizers’ email. “They try to see if the Temple Mount is important to a large Jewish population, or only to some ‘crazies.’ It is obvious that if this passes quietly, it will get worse for the Jews.”

And so the Joint Committee of the Temple Mount Organizations have decided to hold a mass protest vigil to remind the police, the politicians, and—most important—ourselves, that the holiest place for the Jewish People is not the Kotel, with all due respect, but the Temple Mount.

As one organizer put it, according to Matar, celebrating Rosh Chodesh at the Kotel and not on the Temple Mount is tantamount to celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, in the Knesset parking lot, while the building itself would be chock full of Arabs.

They invite “all to whom a Jewish presence at the Jews’ most holy site in the world is important, to wake up early Wednesday morning and come.”

Wouldn’t it be interesting if, this coming Rosh Chodesh Elus, Wednesday morning, all the Jews will find their way up to the Temple Mount, leaving down below only the Women of the Kotel?

Don’t forget to dip in the Mikvah first, in case they actually let everybody up.

Yori Yanover

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/protesters-police-in-cahoots-with-arabs-over-jewish-access-to-mount/2013/08/05/

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