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November 21, 2014 / 28 Heshvan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Women of the Wall’

Kotel Rabbi Saddened by Tumult Surrounding WOW Prayer

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

The Kotel Rav, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, on Sunday morning expressed sorrow this over the prayer of the Women of the Wall and the serious inconvenience it generated for many.

“This morning, the Kotel was turned into an enclosed fortress, to serve the provocative needs of this group of women,” wrote Rabbi Rabinowitz. “This image of a castle is a disgrace to the entire Jewish people. When barriers are placed inside the prayer sections, and at the same time the bathrooms are closed, and the entrance of worshipers into the Kotel plaza is prevented, it is a disgrace to all of us and a deep injury to the sanctity of the Western Wall and the unity it represents.”

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.

Women of the Wall Go for Broke, Plan to Read from Torah at Kotel

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

The Women of the Wall (WoW, having won their fight to pray in their own minyan complete with a tallis and tefillin, have escalated their campaign against orthodox Jewish tradition by announcing plans to read from a Torah scroll at prayers at the Western Wall on Monday.

Several leading Haredi rabbis called on thousands of Haredi men to gather for a mass prayer opposite Women of the Wall. Last month, some of them hurling objects at the women and jeered at them.

The Women of the Wall gather at the beginning of every Jewish month for a women’s Rosh Chodesh service at the Western Wall. The new month of Tammuz falls on the  Sabbath and Sunday this week, and the WoW have put off their “Rosh Chodesh” to Monday, one of two regular weekdays when the Torah is read at prayers services.

Their previous attempts to bring a Torah scroll into the Western Wall area prayer area, in violation of local tradition, created a media sensation, with photographs around the world showing police struggling with a woman holding a holy Torah scroll.

The scene played into the hands of the WoW, winning sympathy in the Diaspora from both non-Jews and Jews, mostly but not exclusively those from the Reform and Conservative movements.

In Jewish tradition, women have no obligation to pray in a minyan, and never with a tallis and tefillin, which are part of the men’s obligations. The women want “equality” although Jewish law does not consider men and women unequal because of different obligations for each sex.

The court ruling allowing the Women of the Wall to pray with a tallis and tefillin at the Wall, in a separate women’s section, does not preclude their using a Torah scroll, but the group decided not to do so last  month in order not to raise tension beyond the point of containment, on both sides of the issue.

“We could have done it last month, but [Religious Services Minister Naftali] Bennett asked us to make a certain compromises and we agreed for one month to show our good will,” Lesley Sachs, the group’s director, told JTA Wednesday. “There was no question we would bring it this month. Without it, it’s not a full service.”

Bennett met with Women of the Wall representatives Wednesday in what Sachs called a “very productive meeting.”

Haredi leaders are encouraging thousands to appear n protest but without violence. The Haredi news site Kikar HaShabbat quoted Haredi Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Yossi Deutsch, as saying, “Many will come, according to the instruction of great rabbis, to sanctify the name of heaven and prove that we will not surrender in the battle over the holiness of the Western Wall.”

JTA contributed to this report.

Is Someone Framing Women of Wall with Death Threat to Rabbis?

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

The Chief Rabbis of Israel filed a complaint with the police Monday after receiving letters threatening them with death if they try to stop the Women of the Wall (WoW) movement from praying in the custom of men, complete with a minyan, tallis and tefillin.

WoW officials immediately condemned the death threats and denied any connection with them.

“All those involved and educated on the subject know that there is no connection between the content and style of these letters and the spirit of nonviolence, tolerance and acceptance which drives Women of the Wall,” WoW stated. Addressing the rabbis who were threatened, they added that they “wish them strength and courage during this trying time.”

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and his Sephardi counterpart Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar received letters with a picture of a handgun. The letter stated, “This is your final warning. If the Women of the Wall are not allowed to daven in line with their custom, we will use all means at our disposal and will end up with one hundred Haredi bodies. Your end is near.”

The Chief Rabbinate stated that the threat is a “red line that has not yet been crossed in the past.”

For all those who have been hibernating the past several months, the Women of the Wall, cheered on by American media and the Reform Movement, have successfully won their campaign to be able to pray at the Western Wall, in the back of the women’s section, even if not in accordance with Jewish tradition that is maintained by Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz. He said he also received a death threat in a letter to his home.

The women will be back in full force at the beginning of the new Hebrew month of Tammuz, which starts Saturday and Sunday, having won permission from the Supreme Court last month to pray in a minyan with tallis and tefillin at the Kotel.

More than 1,000 Haredim, most of them high schoolers, prayed in protest, but the scene was marred by several Haredi men who threw bottles and rocks at the Women of the Wall.

So who sent the death threats?

If a member of WoW sent the letters, she definitely is not a core member of the group.

The writer could have simply been someone who hates Haredim and decided to hitch a ride on the WoW campaign to express outrage at Haredi rabbis, who on the one hand safeguard Jewish law and on the other hand often use religion coercion that distances Jews instead of bringing them closer to tradition.

And there is the worst possibility, if not the most probable.

Someone out there cannot accept the fact that, right or wrong, the women have won the battle. What better way to disgrace WoW by insinuating they are threatening Haredi rabbis to get their way?

This Shabbat, Jews from all over the world will read the Torah portion of Korach, of the Tribe of Levi. He insisted that all of the People of Israel are holy and that Moses was not the only one fit to lead the people.

He met his end when his followers were swallowed up by an opening in the earth, burying them alive.

Opponents to the Women of the Wall will have a field day comparing them with Korach.

There may be something to that comparison, but the same scoffers – and I am far, far from being a supporter of WoW – might recall that a recent Torah reading describes how the “elders” who were close to Moses and complained to him that two of the elders were prophesying.

“And the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him [Moses], and took part of the spirit that was upon him and put it upon the seventy men of the elders, and it was, when the spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, but did not continue.

“And two men remained in the camp – one was called Eldad and the other was called Medad – and the spirit rested upon them; and they belonged to those who had been recorded, but they had not gone out to the Tent [of Assembly], and they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, and said, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp,’ and Joshua son of Nun, servant of Moses from his youth, answered and said, ‘My lord Moses, restrain them.’ And Moses said to him, “Are you jealous on my account? Would that all the people of the Lord might be prophets, that the Lord would put His spirit upon them!” (Num. 11:25-28)

Vicious Graffiti Sprayed on Home of Women of the Wall Official

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Vandals spray painted the Jerusalem home of a long-time board member of the Women of the Wall (WOW) with vicious graffiti, the first time opponents to WOW have resorted to vengeance.

Some of the graffiti sprayed on the door and stairwell of Peggy Cidor’s apartment read in Hebrew: “Women of the Wall are wicked,” “Peggy, your time is up,” “Peggy, we know where you live,” and “Jerusalem is holy,” according to the Women of the Wall.

The words “Torah tag” also were spray painted on the door of the apartment, calling to mind the phrase “price tag” used by extremist settlers and their supporters to describe retribution in the form of vandalism for settlement freezes and demolitions or Palestinian Authority Arab attacks on Jews.

It is the first time that such an incident has happened to Cidor, who has served on the board of Women of the Wall for the last 15 years. Police are investigating the incident.

The Rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz, condemned the graffiti in a statement released to the media and called on “all fanatic groups to remove their hands from this holy place.”

“I have warned against the conflagration and gratuitous hatred. I pray and hope we can check the escalation and that a solution will be found that allows the Western Wall to remain not as a disputed area but as holy grounds that unites and unifies,” he said

The Women of the Wall in a statement called on Haredi Orthodox rabbis to condemn the attack.

“This was likely the actions of bored youth, acting in response to the incitement of their leaders. The real problem facing Israeli society is not what they did but what the leadership of the Haredi public will do now. The writing is on the wall. We call on the rabbis to staunchly condemn the vandalism and to end all incitement against Women of the Wall, without regard to the legitimate public discourse,” the group said.

The Women of the Wall’s May 10th prayer service for the Hebrew month of Iyar was mobbed by Haredi Orthodox women and men. The women required police protection, but were still attacked by men throwing chairs, stink bombs and garbage. It was the first time the women held their monthly service following the ruling of a Jerusalem District Court judge that said the group’s services do not violate the law and merit police protection rather than arrests.

Bennett and Livni in Facebook Fight over Women of the Wall

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Religious Affairs Minister Yair Lapid, who doubles as Finance Minister, are arguing via Facebook over the issue of a women’s minyan at the Western Wall.

Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky has proposed that a Women of the Wall demand for the minyan be allowed at the southern part of the Kotel, called Robinson’s Arch.

Lapid said he is working to approve new regulations but charged Livni with grandstanding. She wrote a letter to Bennett’s office on Shavuot.

Her beef does not concern her views, which are similar to Sharansky, but that no change in the law can be made without her approval.

“I’ll admit that I pray in an Orthodox synagogue…, but I believe that the time is ripe…to apply a pluralistic and tolerant approach at the Western Wall, allowing women to pray according to their customs, mostly because they do so in an area that is intended for women only,” she wrote.

Lapid took to Facebook after the holiday and wrote, “Tzipi Livni, come on.” He chastised Livni for a “provocative spin” and “media trick” by informing Israeli media that she had sent him a letter to his office on the Shavuot holiday, when he could not respond since he was not in his office.

Bennett wrote he has meet with women wanting to pray at the Western Wall with prayer shawls and tefillin that are worn by orthodox men but not women. The meeting was “the first time a religious services minister held talks with the Women of the Wall. And then came Tzipi Livni,” according to Lapid.

Livni wrote back on her Facebook page, “Naftali Bennett, come on. Minister Bennett is upset. He claims that I didn’t consult him before writing him a letter clarifying my stance on women’s prayer at the wall.”

“Since the Women of the Wall controversy broke out, Minister Bennett hasn’t called me a single time to update me on the compromise attempts that he claims he’s trying to reach on the matter, even though the law requires us both to sign the regulations, so he has no one but himself to blame.”

The Clash at the Kotel: Where is the Wisdom?

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

A short while ago I wrote a post lamenting the fact that there are actually people in Israel who refuse to wear a kipa at their own wedding. They refuse to in any way identify with observant Jewry. After last Friday, I can’t really say I blame him. If I were a secular Jew seeing what took place last Friday at the Kotel, the last thing I would ever want to do is identify with observant Jewry.

This event is being published in all media including the New York Times. This morning when I skimmed through the pages of the Chicago Tribune a picture of the event hit me in the face along with an article describing it. The Jewish Press says it all:

Haredi men are cursing the praying women, and occasionally throw water bottles and garbage at them.

I wasn’t going to react to this in a post. It would seem like I was gloating after I had written a post just prior to the event predicting that this might happen. I had hoped it wouldn’t. I had hoped that there would be a major kiddush HaShem with thousands of young women showing up and praying at the Kotel with tremendous sincerity perhaps praying in some way for the welfare of family; or friends; or the entirety of Jewish people. But in my heart I knew it would not end well. And unfortunately I was right. I am not gloating. I am sad that this happened. Sad… and angry! When I saw that Tribune article it hit a raw nerve.

This event goes way beyond any contentiousness about the rights of the women of the wall. I am not one of their supporters. One can debate whether they have a right to do what they do there. But no matter how opposed one is to them, to create a hilul HaShem in that cause not only undermines their goal, it projects an image to the world that the most religious Jews among us… those who claim to be the most authentic representatives of the Chosen People are primitive savages!

As I said in last Thursday’s post, these kinds of protests attract trouble makers. It doesn’t take that many… 5 or 6 people can do things that will make us all look bad. And when I say all.. I mean all of Jewry, Haredim, Modern Orthdodox, and even secular Jews.

I’m sure that there are some people out there who read these articles and said this is how Jews act. And even those who didn’t are certainly saying the this is what Ultra-Orthodox Judaism is all about. If one wears a kipa the world looking at him will increasingly think of images like the one above.

I have to ask. With all the good intention of Israel’s rabbinic leaders, how could they not see that this was going to happen? It isn’t as though protests in the past never had things like this happen. The fact is that this almost always happens.

How many times were reporters spat upon by extremists in Meah Shearim protesting hilul Shabbos? How many dumpsters have been set on fire in protests like these? How many windshields have been broken by rocks being thrown at them during one of these protests in Meah Shearim? Meah Shearim is pretty close to the Kotel… literally a stone’s throw! This is not the first time that rabbis have called for a peaceful protest and violence broke out.

How can they know the potential of violence is real and yet still think that a simple instruction to not be violent will work? “Eizehu hacham? Haroeh es hanolad”—Who is the wise man? The one who foresees the consequences of their actions.

Where is the wisdom?

We have many learned Rabbis who are looked to for guidance by observant Jews. Many of them asked seminaries to empty out and go to the Kotel to protest the Women of the Wall. That is exactly what they did. And look what happened.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/the-clash-at-the-kotel-where-is-the-wisdom/2013/05/12/

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