The Jewish Press just received a press release from Women of the Wall, declaring (gloating, actually) that in light of the District Court decision on April 24, and after 24 years of monthly prayers at the Western Wall (Kotel), “Women of the Wall will return to the holy site to pray with Torah, tefillin (phylacteries) and tallit (prayer shawl) on Rosh Hodesh Sivan, May 10.”
The WOW add: “It is with great pride that the women, from diverse Jewish backgrounds, adopt the important ruling by Judge Moshe Sobel, and join for this joyous occasion.”
“It’s about equal rights and democracy,” WOW Director of Public Relations Shira Pruce told The Jewish Press. “The Western Wall is not an Ultra Orthodox synagogue. It’s a public space. What the judge declared is that you cannot tell women not to pray a certain way in this public space.”
Expect the Wall site is administered by an Ultra Orthodox rabbi, who is a government official.
“That does not make it an Ultra Orthodox synagogue, which would make it a private place” argues Pruce. “It’s not a private place. Does he (Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the ‘Kotel Rabbi’) oversee it? Yes. But in our petition, which has been endorsed by many organizations, including some Orthodox groups, we made it clear that the site has been mismanaged.”
The March 10 online petition, which will eventually be sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharansky, states, among other things:
The Torah teaches us to love one another and our neighbors. Subjecting women to verbal and physical abuse, detention and threat of prosecution for simply exercising their human right to worship fosters a generation of Jews for whom Israel and the Kotel Plaza are associated with fear and religious intolerance.
Speaking of exercising the human right to worship, this reporter mentioned the nearby other holy site, a mere 20 feet or so above WOW’s area of contention—the Temple Mount—where Jews are forbidden to pray and are removed by police sometimes when they just close their eyes and start whispering, even if they’re just doing math.
I asked Pruce if she saw a connection between the plight of the women not being allowed to pray at the Kotel and the plight of Jews in general not being allowed to pray, and often even to visit, the Temple Mount.
“There is no connection, as far as we are concerned” she answered emphatically. “There’s no comparison between the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. I understand that people want to jump on the wave of Women of the Wall, to advance other political agendas. But ours is a struggle for women’s equal rights, religious freedom—civil rights that women do not have and men do have, in a public site that Israel has and oversees and runs. Temple Mount is not even comparable. It’s not relevant, it’s apples and oranges.”
This reporter suggested it was more like comparing Granny apples to Delicious apples (which is pretty brilliant, if you read it a second time). But Pruce insisted strongly that it is apples and oranges.
“We’re talking about a completely different political reality. Our struggle is and always has been at the Western Wall. Because of what it represents to us, religiously, culturally, spiritually, and to the world at large. to the Jewish people internationally, who could not speak up about it, and who now have found their voice about it.
“Our struggle is only about the Kotel.”
Of course, the aspirations of Jews throughout the past 2500 years or so have not been to go daven outside the rear supporting wall of God’s Temple, but rather way up there, where God’s House actually used to stand – but once you acknowledge that, you probably turn off three quarters of your support on the left. And so, for the record, WOW’s position is a case of severe official myopia regarding any other group who might be blocked from prayer literally 20 feet away.
Regarding Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharansky’s suggestion to, essentially, erect a permanent Reform synagogue at the Robinson’s Arch part of the site, the press release says “Women of the Wall share great respect and appreciation” for “his thoughtful, good faith effort to find a resolution to the conflict at the Kotel. We recognize the significance of this plan for an egalitarian section at the Kotel and commend all those who worked tirelessly together to reach an agreement that respects the great diversity of Jews in Israel and abroad,” but…