A Woman at the Wall; A Bystanders Experience of the Rosh Chodesh Sivan events

women of the wallA Woman at the Wall; A Bystanders Experience of the Rosh Chodesh Sivan events

The author who sent this to me wishes to remain anonymous. I was on the way back from Tahoe and Yosemite so I wasn’t even aware that this was happening.

(This piece was written as a response to the events that happened the morning of Rosh Chodesh Nissan 5773 (May 10, 2013). A summary of the events can be seen here.)

I woke up at 4:00am and quietly tiptoe out of my room, trying my best to not disturb my roommate. I sneak into the bathroom to change, I grab a bottle of water, and head out into the still dark night. Arab muezzins sing around me in their early morning prayer calls as I wait to meet a friend at the front gate. She soon showed up and quietly we stole out of the gate and began to walk quickly in the direction of the Temple Mount.

The Jerusalem air was still cool and felt good against our faces and we walked with a purpose in the middle of the night. We approached the Kotel from the south and as the sky grew lighter climber hundreds of windy stairs to make our wait to the old city. As we drew closer we could see other groups of yeshiva boys, seminary girls, b’nai akiva groups, approaching the Kotel with the all same intention in mind.

We walked single file through the narrow winding streets of the old city passing through a parking lot, in front of the Zilberman Yeshiva, trying not to slip on the smooth Jerusalem stone. It was close to 5am and approached the wall; we stood in the back of the plaza, praying. Safardi minyans shouting out their prayers in a sing song tune. Askanizi chazzanim trying to chant loud enough to be heard. The buzz of multiple minyans resonated around us. However, come dawn, suddenly, the voices of all the minyan’s at the Kotel unite to say “Baruch Ata… Goal Yisrael” and the plaza falls silent as thousands of people begin to say the silent Amidah.

I stood there in the morning air. The sun was just rising above the Kotel and shedding its light on the buildings behind us. All I could here were the night sparrows, still out, screeching as they flew in circles above our head. Pigeons were lined up on the top of the Kotel, silhouetted as the waddled back and forth. Several thousand Jews were silent as each sent our personal prayers up to the heavens.

About seven minutes later the silence is broken. The first minyan begins its chazara (repetition), a second, a third, soon the plaza is buzzing again. Soon Torahs start popping up all over the plaza. I watch as various minyans pull out their torah and see at least five Hagbah’s occur as each minyan shuts their Torah to put it back.

The minyan I am with davens slower and soon we Hallel well after other minyans. I came here mostly to experience Hallel, a joyous praise of Gd that we sing on special days of the Jewish calendar. The songs of Hallel are beautiful and inspiring. I am leaving in three weeks and this will be my last opportunity to sing it at the Kotel. We begin.

The first thing I notice are the cameras. We are dancing for Hallel, a group of us join hands and sing jumping and twirling in a circle, joining together as one in song and dance. Some photographers come over and take pictures. They want pictures of people dancing at the Kotel, I thought, how nice.

After a few minutes of dancing, we split apart and resume prayers. Most of the other minyans have finished, as ours takes it’s lazy time adding in plenty of humming and chanting in between songs and prayers. As I retrieve my siddur from the pile that was stacked on backpacks when we all began dancing, and peer at the words I peer up for a second. I am standing near the Mechitza and suddenly see hundreds of men’s faces pop up over the desperately trying to get a glance at something happening behind me.

Against my better judgments, and my mother’s voice inside of me – who always urged me not to look at spectacles – ‘it’s makes them worse’, she told me. I turn to see what they are looking at. I see hundreds more men pressed up against the fence between the main Kotel plaza and the wall plaza, I see cameras, commotion, and people. Lots and lots of people.

It’s the Women at the Wall, I thought, they’re probably getting arrested, I thought. I knew they came each month to the wall and got arrested and I figured it was irrelevant to me, and turned back to my prayerbook. Let me continue praying. It was much more difficult to concentrate with men staring over the mechitzah and hundreds of women in the plaza with their backs to the Kotel to trying and see what’s going on. I peer over at the men’s side of the Kotel and see that most of the men had filtered out to the main plaza. What was an hour ago a packed plaza was half empty, and the women’s side – which wasn’t even half full before suddenly began to fill with people.

There’s shouting and yelling, and pushing and shoving. The minyan I am with tries to sing louder to overcome the noise. I sing with them. The shouting behind us gets louder. We sing louder. The spell from the morning suddenly is broken. I feel like I am taking part in a political debate and feel used. I came here to daven this morning – not to debate.

I decide then to finish Hallel on my own. I quietly reciting the words that I usually enjoy singing. I glance around at the people around me, no one is davening any more, everyone is craning their necks to see what is going on. I watch a group of security guards run to control the crowd. It’s barely 7am and I decide to leave.

Girls are flooding the Kotel plaza now. I don’t know what is going on. I elbow my way through hundreds of Beis Yaakov girls who stand around talking and milling, also trying to see the excitement on the other side of the plaza. I don’t care about the excitement. All I am trying to do is get out of their as quickly as a can.

On the steps up from the Kotel I can see the masses of people. I turn my back on them and make my way up the stairs. I am still passing bunches of Beis Yaakov girls making their way to the Kotel. I have never seen so many before, I don’t know why they are there. I briefly wonder if there’s something special about this rosh chodesh that makes girls want to visit the Kotel more.

With relief I reach the gates of the old city. Exhaustion from three hours of sleep, an hour walk to the Kotel, and two hours on my feet afterwards is starting to hit me. I am left with a bad taste in my mouth. I have still not said Mussaf – the environment at the Kotel was not one that I could talk to Gd to. I feel an itching need to pray but have nowhere to do it. I need to go to the shuk to buy food for Shabbos, I need to pray, I am tired, I am hungry, it’s beginning to get hot out. I begin to wish I never came.

* * *

I have Jewish friends ranging from reconstructionist to charedi, with stops at every denomination in between. I have female friends who put on tefillin every day, and female friends who won’t wear anything skirt above than their ankles. I fully realize that each person has their own way of serving their creator and do my very best to support and understand that people have different needs; even when they clash with mine. I believe that anyone trying to serve Gd should be respected, even if they are doing things that I don’t believe it.

Nonetheless, after this morning, I am left with an uncomfortable taste in my mouth. I am upset at the people who decided that the Kotel, our most holy place in the world, is the correct forum for a political debate. I do not think that the people who threw garbage at the women were correct in doing so. I also do not think that the women who showed up at the wall knowing full well that they would incite hundreds of people to throw garbage at them were right in doing so either. Our shuls are not our political forums, all the more so, the Kotel plaza should not be either.

If people feel that this debate is one that is important to be had – go ahead, I am in support of communication. However, do I think that both sides are acting a little bit brickheaded? Yes. I believe that both the Women at the Wall, and the cheradi men who are opposed to it both have legitimate reasons why they have opposing opinions. Do I know the right answers to these questions? No. I think they are difficult questions – but ones we should be grateful to have. If B’nai Yisrael has reached the point where some of the biggest arguments we have are about a hashkafic nuances; I think that is amazing, that is a real luxury. That being said, now that we have reached this point – let us not have it tear us apart.

Our Kotel is not the white house lawn that we should picket on. The plaza shouldn’t be a place where anyone goes to incite spite or disagreements. Disagree with the policy, but not at the site itself. It’s the closest physical place where we can reach Gd. Let us go there to pray as individuals and as a nation. Please don’t let our hashkafic differences take that away from us.

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  • anon

    should the charedi men smile and say please pray in the men’s section when they don’t agree? garbage is a bit of a stretch but these women of the wall don’t have any regard for things that are sacred to judaism. you women want be religious? light candles on friday night, dress modestly, raise a family in the right path, etc. first.

    • G*3

      > you women want be religious? light candles on friday night, dress modestly, raise a family in the right path, etc. first.

      1. What makes you think they don’t do all of those things?
      2. Why do you assume that only your definition of “religious” is valid?

      • Rob

        1) If they did all the beautiful mitzvot for women, perhaps they wouldn’t be trying to take on mens’ mitzvot.
        2) Your semantic game of defining “religious” is meaningless. There are only mitzvot, which separate Jews from non-jews, including the roles that God, through Torah, assigns to different groups of Jews (e.g. men vs. women), unlike the non-Jews who have higher divorce rates because they neither separate men and women nor elevate G-d’s commandments above yetzer hara.

        • anon

          Why are your understandings right? There’s one torah and one standard. Not the liberal jew book of puffery. The law in judaism is men and women pray separately. Lesbian rabbi mildred’s opinion on fair and equality has no place

        • G*3

          > If they did all the beautiful mitzvot for women, perhaps they wouldn’t be trying to take on mens’ mitzvot.

          If I understand you correctly, you’re saying that if these women lit candles Friday night, etc., they would have no desire to daven while wearing a talis?

          What makes you think that?

          According tt you, must it be that women who sit in the succah, shake lulav, or go out of their way to hear shofar on Rosh HaShanah are not lighting cadles or dressing tznuis? After allm why else would they be trying to take on men’s mitzvos?

          > Your semantic game of defining “religious” is meaningless. There are only mitzvoth…

          It must be nice to be so certain that you have the Truth and everyone else is wrong.

          • Rob

            I never said they wouldn’t have the desire. I was speculating that the desire might be ameliorated or precluded by scheduling. Women are obligated in some time-bound mitzvot (e.g. lulav, shofar, etc. ), at least if there is not man to fulfill it for them or their family, as I was taught.

            Your response on the second point is ad hominem, thus avoiding the question at hand; you can’t seem to offer a counter to my assertion, so you try to insult me. #rhetoricFAIL

            • G*3

              > I was speculating that the desire might be ameliorated or precluded by scheduling.

              Where did you say that?

              You said, “you women want be religious? light candles on friday night, dress modestly, raise a family in the right path, etc. first.” Followed by, “If they did all the beautiful mitzvot for women, perhaps they wouldn’t be trying to take on mens’ mitzvot.”

              How does that imply anything about scheduling?

              > Your response on the second point is ad hominem,

              Fair enough.

              > thus avoiding the question at hand;

              What question? You clearly believe that only your beliefs are valid. You want me to start from the beginning, and go through the arguments against the certainty that Judaism is the One True Religion, and that current Orthodoxy is the One True interpretation of that religion so that we can address the assertion that “defining “religious” is meaningless. There are only mitzvot”? We could do that, if you’d like, but it seems like a lot of effort for a comment section.

            • SmR

              “Women are obligated in some time-bound mitzvot (e.g. lulav, shofar, etc. ), at least if there is not man to fulfill it for them or their family, as I was taught.”

              Sorry, but you were taught wrong. Women are obligated in lulav and shofar just as much as they are obligated in tallit and tefillin. So to return to the question you didn’t answer – do you think that women who observe the mitzvot of lulav/shofar/etc. are not lighting shabbat candles or dressing tznius?

      • Lesbian Rabbinit

        Agreed. Sounds more like get in the back of the bus and be quiet.

    • Isak

      “should the charedi men smile and say please pray in the men’s section when they don’t agree?”

      No, and the WoW aren’t asking to pray in the men’s section, they’re asking the charedi men to mind their own business in the men’s section and let them pray in the women’s section according to their own custom as the court has ruled that they can.

  • Holmes

    “(This piece was written as a response to the events that happened the morning of Rosh Chodesh Nissan 5773 (May 10, 2013). A summary of the events can be seen here.)”

    Friday, May 10, 2013 was Rosh Chodesh Sivan.

  • Anonymous

    Did you see the latest on heeb magazine this past Friday about the offensive Jewish car on Boro park with stickers reading mothers who wear short skirts shorten child’s life… Freaky.

    • http://www.frumsatire.net Heshy Fried

      That picture is already old, I put it up two weeks ago.

  • Anonymous

    I want WoW to leave. If you want religious freedom then go to America. This is the problem with Zionism, this shit gets accepted. Some might think this is sexist, but this is Torah people.

    • Anonymous

      Agreed. This is a place where you get close to G-d. It is not a place to bring western feminist agendas. Would this be an issue in Mecca? No, because they don’t change their practices to accommodate a few. Our religion survived for thousands of years because we do not waiver.
      Do these women observe mitzvahs relating to kashrut, mikvah, Shabbos, and challah? They are accustomed to the Chinese menu of Judaism, 1 from column A and 2 from column B.

      • Michael McG

        Yeah, because Judaism has never, ever changed before to recognize the realities of worship.

      • Puzzled

        As opposed to Anonymous, who slaughters cows in his backyard – phooey on “only in Jerusalem…” No one can tolerate change to worship.

    • Anonymous

      “Some might think this is sexist, but this is Torah people.”

      Or a perversion of Torah, depending on your point of view…

      • Anonymous

        I’m sure there are some liberal frummies that might consider it a perversion. Though I find it ironic if you use that word.

  • http://yeshivadaze.wordpress.com Shragi

    This is not an issue that will be resolved through communication, ultimately the Women of the Wall want to pray at the kotel, what does communication have to do with it?

  • G*3

    > I also do not think that the women who showed up at the wall knowing full well that they would incite hundreds of people to throw garbage at them were right in doing so either.

    In other words, they were asking for it, and while it’s wrong, it’s only natural that men should rape scantily-clad women – I mean, throw garbage at talis-clad women.

    > It’s the closest physical place where we can reach Gd.

    The idea that God resides in a physical place, and that one can be physically closer to Him, is kefira.

    • Alter Cocker

      The piece did not say God resides in a physical place.

      • G*3

        Then what does, “the closest physical place where we can reach Gd.” mean? It implies that the kosel is the place where one can get physically closest to God.

        • Alter Cocker

          It means that it’s a physical place where one can perhaps reach a higher spiritual level.

          It certainly does not mean God is physically located at the kotel. No one said that.

          • G*3

            Had she written something like, “The physical place where one can be closest to God,” then I’d agree. But then, perhaps she just wasn’t careful about making her meaning obvious.

            • Alter Cocker

              I’m pretty sure you’re the only one who interpreted what she said as saying that God physically resides there. It’s not a logical interpretation of the sentence.

              Reaching God does not mean physically touching God. It means communicating with God.

              The kotel is a physical location which can help one reach God. That’s it.

    • Moshe

      They came knowing there would be a fight, court ruling in their favor and all. I personally think if we just ignore their misguided ways they will probably loose some of their “fight” and perhaps just go away after some time, but others would argue and with good reason that ignoring it is tacit approval.
      I think that often the Orthodox religious standards are chosen in Israel, because though more “restrictive” are the most inline with traditional Judaism and the least offensive overall to the greatest number of citizens.
      That said Israel is a democratic and free country, but that does not automatically equal doing what you want, and how you want to. Everyone has rights but they are wholly dependent on the acceptance of personal responsibility, either directly or by proxy. In the former choosing to get a drivers license means you choose to obey traffic laws or face fines etc., in the latter you choose to live freely by not breaking laws and going to jail even if you were never warned or were never asked (I didn’t know will not work in court) to accept the laws of the country.
      So yes these women have the right to freely pray as they see fit but maybe not in a place that offends so many especially when alternates have been offered. Certainly if Christians started holding mass at the kotel most every Jew in the world would be furious, and they have just as much rights to pray in freedom as they see fit, where they want. But maybe they just have more sense then these women do.

      • Puzzled

        “They came knowing there would be a fight.” The ultimate justification used for every privileged position – you are wrong to do as you did, knowing I’d throw a fit and act stupid. Those abolitionists – they knew there would be a fight, so they have blood on their hands, not those of us who fought to own people.

  • http://chabad.org PeleYoetzElGiborAviAdSarShalom

    It’s a kind of interesting issue :
    Charedi perspective : these minyanim are a defilement ( if you have difficulty getting your head around this – I think most Jews would agree that a pork roast party in front of the Kotel would be inappropriate – for the Charedi camp, this isn’t so far away ). They are a minority that wants there rights protected … in a secular democracy.
    Modernishe/Secular perspective : this is a democracy, the majority of Israeli’s are good with it – live with it.

    My only question is what the Modernishe/Secular perspective is going to be when there is a chareidi majority … my guess is we are going to hear a lot about preventing the tyranny of the majority then.

    Despite being Modernishe/Secular – you really need to wonder how open minded the M/S is in reality. No answers. Just questions.

    Oh yeah, … and just to stay in character …. this is most certainly a Chabad conspiracy of some sort.

  • Dana

    I don’t agree with this young girl at all. The Kotel is the place for people to pray – as they want to pray. The Women of the Wall had every right to pray at the Kotel. Ascribing them political motives and denying their sincerity is incredibly cheap. They should not have come to pray – so that she can pray? Judaism is not a religion of spiritual selfishness. She’s missed the point of praying. And as to politics – she also neglected to mention that those Bais Yaakov girls were bussed in by leading rabbis so that they would attempt to crowd out the Women of the Wall. This girl is quite “brickheaded” herself. The fact that she was able to visit Israel, to learn – it’s because women before her challenged the status quo. Without them, she wouldn’t have even been there.

    • Rob

      Nothing justifies violence towards and baseless hatred of WoW; and of course the WoW have the right to pray at the Kotel, BUT ONLY according to minhag hamakom. You don’t visit a place and contemptuously and purposefully offend the majority by transgressing a long-standing way of doing things; that is not derech eretz any more than throwing rocks and spitting on people is. WoW does not have a right to disturb long-standing Kotel practice of tradition (women not reading Torah publicly) or unequivocal halakha (gender-separated tefilah) just because they don’t like it. I seriously doubt they would be happy if I showed up in their “temples” to daven and demanded that they provide a mechitza, mehadrin kosher food, a mikveh, etc. And what WoW does is EXACTLY “spiritual selfishness”; they elevate their own alien ideas about Judaism above God’s will as expressed through Torah mitzvot and halacha. They have free will to keep mitzvot and minhagim not in their own lives, but that does not give them the right to force their alien ideas on others when they are in the tiny minority in a place that has other laws and traditions.

      • Isak

        “the WoW have the right to pray at the Kotel, BUT ONLY according to minhag hamakom.”

        And who decides what is the minhag hamakom? The Jewish Pope?

        • Jewish Misery

          Agreed. It’s time Judiasm adjusts or its going the way of the dinosaurs.

          • Anonymous

            Orthodoxy is growing. Non-orthodoxy is going the way of the dinosaurs. See the population surveys. Q.E.D.

            • Jewish Misery

              True but tons of FFB and BT are going OTD.

      • Isak

        And gender-separated tefilah is NOT “long-standing Kotel practice of tradition”.

        If you don’t believe me look at late 19th-/early 20th-century photographs of the Kotel or read up on the riots instigated by Arabs in the 1920s to protest the INTRODUCTION of a mechitza at the Kotel by Jews who by this CHANGED the status quo at the site.

        • Anonymous

          It has been noted that those photographs of the kotel were most likely Arabs posed as Jews… cameras didn’t have the same time-frame capacities as they do now… just an FYI

        • Rob

          I never said gender separated tefilah was “tradition”. By virtue of the conjunction “or”, I said it was halakaha (to which all jews are bound even if their “rabbis” and “movements” water down that which makes Judasim distinct), without respect to the Kotel.

          And I suspect most would I would consider 40 years or so “long-standing” unless you are Mel Brooks’ 2000-year old man.

          And your resorting to reductio ad absurdum (“Jewish Pope”) is infantile. If you haven’t heard, Shmuel Rabinovitch is the Rabbi of the Western Wall, and, AFAIK, authorized through a duly elected government (representing a state that legally and historically precedes the recapture of the Temple Mount in 1967) of the State of Israel as the decisor of minhag hamakom and posek at the Kotel. His rulings may not be popular with some, but the vast majority of Israelis and non-Israeli visitors to the Kotel respect his authority and rulings there, even if they disagree with him. If you want him removed, try the democratic process to effect a change in government instead of your failed demagoguery.

          • G*3

            > I said it was halakaha (to which all jews are bound even if their “rabbis” and “movements” water down that which makes Judasim distinct)

            There it is again, the certainty that only your version is right and everyone else is wrong. I don’t expect you to agree with the other movements, but at least a show a little humility. Maybe, just maybe, there is some validity to the beliefs and practices of people who disagree with you.

            > …authorized through a duly elected government

            So you recognize the authority of the Israeli government to appoint officials to make decisions about minhag hamakom of the kosel, but don’t recognize the authority of the same government to rule on whether those decisions are legal?

            • Rob

              My certainty? It’s evident in the numbers of intermarriage, the numbers of Jewishly illiterate Jews, etc. If you are not going to live a life that is different from goyim, then why be Jewish? A difference which makes no difference is no difference at all.

              I do not recognize the authority of the secular government to decide religious law. The government only enacts secular law, and appoints/recognizies religious authority for the various religions in Israel (I don’t claim this is good or bad, but rather status quo). The courts, not the government, decide when something is legal or illegal. Learn a civics lesson or two before you read things that I didn’t type.

              • Anonymous

                “The courts, not the government, decide when something is legal or illegal.”

                And the court has ruled that it is LEGAL for women to pray wearing tefilin and tallit at the Kotel.

  • http://yeshivaforum.wordpress.com OfftheDwannaB

    I totally agree with this girl. Why is everyone in israel trying to outasshole each other? Just show up do ur thing and leave other ppl alone. Dont fucking yell for maariv a billion times till u get a minyan and think since ur making a minyan its fine to hog the whole freakin space. Dont shove ur women minyan in everyones face to make a point. Get ur own shul. If u come to the wall with tfillin do it privately and no one will say a word. Everyone needs to have some fuckin basic respect for other people and just shut up. Everyone just STFU. There should be a goddamn sign on the wall with those 4 letters in bold.
    Didnt chana daven quietly? For chanas sake shut the fuck up.

    • Ansy

      Totally on the money. Whether you agree with the Chareidim or not is irrelevant. There is a standing decorum and “code of culture” at the Kotel and making a public spectacle in opposition to it is not going solve anything and only promotes more animosity and a greater negative public spectacle. Its by far more important to not create animosity and chillul Hashem than to daven at the kotel. If you can’t be respectful of the status quo, then you don’t belong there anyway.

      • Micah T

        “It’s by far more important to not create animosity and chillul Hashem than to daven at the kotel.”

        Well said. I agree.

  • Channa

    The women can’t wait until they are ignored and just allowed to pray. That is actually their goal.

    The girls who were bused in was like free outreach for the women. Most of the articles talk about how most of the girls watching group instead of paying attention to their teachers and prayers.

    • FYI

      “Most of the articles talk about how most of the girls watching group instead of paying attention to their teachers and prayers.”

      I’ve read just as many articles talking about how girls in the ezras nashim were for the most part praying quietly. It is all a matter of media bias…

  • Puzzled

    Utterly absurd article, many absurd comments. 6:42 sticks out at me the most. It isn’t an interesting issue – it’s an attempt at theocracy. Police should not be enforcing religious edicts (let alone religious edicts that fly in the face of the religion as it’s been practiced for centuries.) How dare Jews complain about theocracy when it fails to benefit them, if their idea of a Jewish state is a theocratic one? That’s the M/S position – not rule of the majority. I can deal with people who take ridiculous positions, but otherwise reasonable people who insist on trying to find the good in both sides, when one side is absurd, really get my goat. As for the minority that wants its rights protected – your right to swing your fist stops at my face, and your right to use your public spaces is limited to just that – it does not include your right to keep others out.

    Then there’s offthedwannab who, among curses and insults, asks that everyone respect each other. I will not respect those whose opinions call for suppressing the rights of others, and throwing them in jail for practicing their religion. That’s not worthy of respect. Furthermore, no one is shoving a woman’s minyan in anyone’s face, and in any event, the idea that the shoving is wrong rests only on respecting idiotic superstitions – which I do until others are impacted.

    The whole tone of the article is much like a quote I saw recently from Condi Rice, about how she dislikes confrontation and raised voices. That’s great – except that her positions involve large bombing raids and loss of civil liberties, and she’s attempting to make it ok to bomb people who disagree with, but not to raise your voice in response.

    • Ansy

      “Furthermore, no one is shoving a woman’s minyan in anyone’s face”

      – Are you on crack? you realize that the only reason why the Chareidim knew about this whole thing to bus in all the bais yakov girls was because it was made into a public event in advance. Had the entire thing not been public, and had they shown up and davened in the women’s section (which is still at the very same wall, mind you) there wouldnt have been any fight. The chareidi response was wrong, but provoking it is just as wrong.

      The same procedures and culture has been in-place at the Kotel since ’67. Agree or disagree with it is irrelevant. That’s what it is. Respect it, work within its confines, work to change it from the outside, or stay home. Public spectacles cause more hate and solve absolutely nothing. I mean does either side honestly believe that the “we’ll show them” approach will make everything work out in their favor?

      • Isak

        “Had the entire thing not been public, and had they shown up and davened in the women’s section (which is still at the very same wall, mind you) there wouldnt have been any fight.”

        The WoW davens EVERY Rosh Hodesh in the women’s section. Until the recent court ruling it has been illegal for them to do so wearing tefilin and “male-style” tallitot.

        The WoW would have davened in in the women’s section this Rosh Hodesh as well had not been for the thousands of Beis Yaakov and Ulpana girls who don’t usually davens at the Kotel at Rosh Hodesh, but who had been bussed in this time to protest against the court ruling by their share numbers to physically prevent the WoW from entering the women’s section.

        • Anonymous

          “The same procedures and culture has been in-place at the Kotel since ’67. Agree or disagree with it is irrelevant. That’s what it is. Respect it, work within its confines, work to change it from the outside, or stay home.”

          That’s exactly what the WoW did. They went to court and the court ruled that a women MAY daven at the Kotel wearing tallit and tefilin.

      • Puzzled

        >Respect it, work within its confines, work to change it from the outside, or stay >home.

        I hope this gospel can be spread to the likes of MLK, the abolitionists, opponents of alcohol prohibition…

  • Puzzled

    And as for Chana, she prayed silently – and was attacked and insulted for that.

  • http://www.frumsatire.net Heshy Fried

    I just wanted to chime in that this is issue is so much more complex than the right and left make it out to be, it’s bugging me out and I find myself agreeing with both sides.

  • MeQuestionYou

    If any form of prayer is allowed at the Kotel then what about those who wish to sacrifice a pig?

    • Rob

      Right on. We ought to allow avodah zara at the Kotel, in the name of pluralism and democracy!

      • Anonymous

        Yes, it’s a slippery slope.

        First you allow people to deviate from minhag hamakom by daving according to Nusach Ashkenaz, the next step is Reform worship and the final step is sacrificing pigs to Zeus!

        • yankelyoffen

          That is somewhat historically accurate.

        • Anonymous

          sadly that is actually rather accurate…

        • Rob

          Minhag hamakom at the Kotel seems to be each person or minyan may daven their own nusach. It does not preclude Conservative Jews or Reform Jews from davening Siddur Sim Shalom or Gates of Prayer, respsectively… as long as halakha is followed as to what constitutes a minyan and gender-separation. Of course, yayin stam and ham sandwiches among the “polyester Bagel Nosh crowd” (to borrow from Steve Rubell, who himself was of that yichus), might be problematic for box-lunches at the Kotel.

    • Puzzled

      Last I checked, it wasn’t modernists/secularists whining 3 times a day about their wish to bring back sacrifices (plus at every meal.)

  • yankelyoffen

    This is just about the only issue on which I find my self agreeing with the cbhreidi side of the issue (though I definitely hear the WOTW side too.) The reality is that the overwhelming majority of people who come to the wall consistently, daily, continually to pray are chareidi or right wing daati leumi. This may just be a reflection of who lives within walking distance of the kotel, but its the reality. This is their neighborhood. Its nice that many Jews around the world come yo pray at the kotel, but its not their neighborhood. Nobody has a right to walk into your neighborhood and do something that the.majority find offensive, even.if its technically legal.

    • Micah T

      It’s a cliche, but yes, “when in Rome, do like the Romans.” There is much to be said for cultural norms, and the necessity of respecting them. As for WOW versus the Charedi, I am conflicted, but defininely have some sympathy for the Charedi position.

    • Puzzled

      They most certainly do.

    • http://andsarah.blogspot.com And Sarah Laughed

      The Kotel belongs to all of Am Yisrael, not just those who live nearby.

    • Puzzled

      Explain that last one, please. What should the response be if someone does something the majority doesn’t like, but which is legal? Throw things at them? Because that’s illegal, you know. What should be done about it?

  • YU S’micha Guy

    Just one question: why did the WoW start davening at 7? Do these woman normally wake up very early to make it to minyan? It seems, and I’d love to be wrong about this, that they chose a time when there would be HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS of charedim at the kotel who daven there every single day. If their motivation was so clearly to antagonize, they lose a great deal of my respect.

    As a personal note, my wife and I went to see the whole event on Friday, and we walked away hurting. It was painful to see the kedushas hamakom, and entire idea of prayer, distorted into a social-political game. And we were cringing over the disgraceful chillul Hashem that occurred. The whole thing was just sad.

    • Anonymous

      Can a place other than Har HaBayt itself be said to have kedusha?

      • YU S’micha Guy

        Ummmmm, the halacha assumes that all of Israel has a certain level of kedusha, yerushalayim a greater level, and the makom hamikdash a greater level. Further, all shuls have some kedusha.

  • Alter Cocker

    I’m pretty sure WoW refers to World of Warcraft. Just sayin’.

    • ofthe9fingers

      Whip ‘em Out Wednesday?

      • Anonymous

        that’s next lol

  • http://jewishatheist.tumblr.com JewishAtheist

    Obviously a very interesting and complex issue, but I firmly believe the Women of the Wall are in the right. I’d like to address a few of the points made by Heshy and some of the commenters:

    “These women of the wall don’t have any regard for things that are sacred to judaism.”
    Why would you say that? Because they too want to pray at a holy site according to their form of Judaism? Perhaps you meant “they have no regard for orthodoxy”, but even then, they’re not actually breaking any halachot. They’re not demanding the mechitza be removed. All they want to do is completely kosher and has historical precedent. So how on earth do you reach this conclusion?

    “If they did all the beautiful mitzvot for women, perhaps they wouldn’t be trying to take on mens’ mitzvot.”
    This is rather sexist and incredibly ignorant. Would you blame a man who was taking on extra chumras or practices of probably not focusing on the baseline, day-to-day halachot? Of course not. You’d recognize that some people just want to do more. They want a deeper connection. And besides, this comment is from a very ortho-centric perspective. For the WoW, what they’re doing is just a regular part of their belief system.

    “Your semantic game of defining “religious” is meaningless. There are only mitzvot, which separate Jews from non-jews, including the roles that God, through Torah, assigns to different groups of Jews (e.g. men vs. women), unlike the non-Jews who have higher divorce rates because they neither separate men and women nor elevate G-d’s commandments above yetzer hara.”
    1) Again, an extremely ortho-centric perspective. I suspect this person, and those with similar feelings, don’t realize how much Judaism has evolved over the past 2,800 years. That includes the creation of rabbinic Judaism. That includes more recent evolutions, like the creation of hasidic judaism, and it also includes the very recent evolutions, like the non-orthodox sects of Judaism. Each one is just as legitimate as the other. No-one owns the idea of Judaism, nor could they.
    2) How exactly is this person concluding that the divorce rate is a result of not separating men and women?! (Btw, the WoW are NOT trying to pray in the men’s section, just to be clear.) As for the yetzer hara, this is again a very despicable version of ortho-centrism, insisting that they’re motivated by their “evil inclination” instead of a sincere desire to connect to god – esp since all evidence suggests it’s the latter. Though the same can’t be said about how many of the charedim there reacted.

    “I want WoW to leave. If you want religious freedom then go to America. This is the problem with Zionism, this shit gets accepted. Some might think this is sexist, but this is Torah people.”
    1) Yes, the torah – esp according to orthodoxy – IS sexist.
    2) Israel is not a theocracy. If you want that, go to Afghanistan or Iran.
    3) This has nothing to do with zionism. It’s about equality and democracy. Completely separate issues.

    “Would this be an issue in Mecca? No, because they don’t change their practices to accommodate a few.”
    “A few”? The ultra-orthodox are only 10%~ of the Israeli population, and Orthodox in general only make up another 10%~. The secular and “traditional” labels, however, account for over half the population.

    “the WoW have the right to pray at the Kotel, BUT ONLY according to minhag hamakom. You don’t visit a place and contemptuously and purposefully offend the majority by transgressing a long-standing way of doing things; that is not derech eretz any more than throwing rocks and spitting on people is.”
    As has been said by myself and others, those (ultra~)orthodox restrictions are relatively new. And the only way that minhag changes is by changing it. These women were not doing anything wrong. I don’t think they were acting “contemptuously and purposefully offend[ing]” people. I think they just want to be able to practice their form of Judaism and don’t see how it effects anybody else. And I agree.
    Oh, and comparing them wearing tefillin, as rashi’s daughters had, to people throwing rocks and spitting at them? Really? Is the world that black-and-white to you? You honestly don’t see any qualitative difference between the two?

    “WoW does not have a right to disturb long-standing Kotel practice of tradition (women not reading Torah publicly) or unequivocal halakha (gender-separated tefilah) just because they don’t like it. I seriously doubt they would be happy if I showed up in their “temples” to daven and demanded that they provide a mechitza, mehadrin kosher food, a mikveh, etc.”
    1) It’s not a very long-standing tradition.
    2) They’re not trying to break down the mechitza. Gender separated prayer is not an issue here.
    3) I think they would be perfectly happy if you showed up at their temples and sat away from women, brought your own kosher food, went to a mikvah etc. In fact, I’d bet that they’re try to accomodate you as best they could. The difference, though, is that the WoW aren’t demanding anything. They just want to be left alone to pray as they like. Your analogy makes it seem like they’re pushing their agenda on everyone else. That’s not the case. You don’t like women wearing tefillin? Don’t look.

    “Its by far more important to not create animosity and chillul Hashem than to daven at the kotel.”
    I agree. Wish someone had told that to the charedim.

    “If any form of prayer is allowed at the Kotel then what about those who wish to sacrifice a pig?”
    1) No-one is suggesting that “any form of prayer is allowed”. These women observe a type of Judaism, just as you do, and they’re not violating any halachot.
    2) What about someone who wants, as per the Torah’s instructions, to sacrifice a goat? Or maybe swing a chicken over their heads and then kill it there? Would those be ok with you? Personally, I think the “slippery slope” argument is much more of a concern about right-wing religious zealots than left-wing ones.

    “This is just about the only issue on which I find my self agreeing with the cbhreidi side of the issue (though I definitely hear the WOTW side too.) The reality is that the overwhelming majority of people who come to the wall consistently, daily, continually to pray are chareidi or right wing daati leumi. This may just be a reflection of who lives within walking distance of the kotel, but its the reality. This is their neighborhood. Its nice that many Jews around the world come yo pray at the kotel, but its not their neighborhood. Nobody has a right to walk into your neighborhood and do something that the.majority find offensive, even.if its technically legal.”
    This is an interesting point, but let’s remember:
    1) This isn’t “their neighborhood”. It’s the kotel. It’s a unique holy site for people across the world. And certainly it should be accessible as a holy site for all the Israeli Jews who don’t subscribe to charedi standards. Which is most of them.
    2) *Even if it was their neighborhood*, I’d still have a problem. It’s like when those charedim in brooklyn tried to get rid of bicycle lanes bc they didn’t want sexy bicyclists around. Sorry, but your neighborhood isn’t a little country which goes by your rules. Everyone is allowed to bicycle there. Same thing here: The Kotel is a site for everyone. It doesn’t fall under charedi law. It falls under Isreali law. And Israeli law confirmed that what these women are doing is legal. So like with the bike lanes, if you don’t like it, just don’t look.

    “These women are just picking a fight, how can they use the holiest place of the Jews to stage their public protest?”
    They’re not protesting there; they’re praying there! They’re Jews too! It’s their “holiest place” as well!

  • http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/ Batya

    http://me-ander.blogspot.co.il/2013/05/about-kotel-wow-w4w-and-common-sense.html
    It’s not so simple unless you look at the numbers.

  • Holmes

    ROB, what do you know about Steve Rubell?

  • Silly Religions

    My thoughts aside from what’s been said is that let them do what they want, if its Truth it will prevail if not it will fade into history like other false groups. If not, still who cares? The wall doesn’t mind and if G-d does He will do something about it. I think we all need to stop JUDGING for once.

    • Anonymous

      Let me guess, you’re a Christian, right?

      • Silly Religions

        Um no, I’m a BT considering OTD.

  • SDK

    The disruption at the Kotel was not caused by nashot hakotel but rather by the Charedi reaction to them. If the men chose to ignore them, there would be no disruption and no politicization of the space, just some women singing a bit more communally than usual, wearing unusual outfits.

    Here’s the problem — if it wasn’t for the innovation of Beis Yaakov and the completely radical idea of teaching Hebrew to women, teaching women to pray the standard prayers, teaching women halacha, all of which are questionable 19th century innovations in Jewish life, the girl who wrote this piece would not have been at the Kotel daavening. She would have been there saying techines.

    There is nothing wrong with techines, nor with the devotion of our foremothers, but if you told a frum girl today that she could not learn Hebrew and that she had no need to ever attend shul (women very rarely attended synagogue in many Arab Jewish communities), that she could learn nothing of her faith except some stories in her vernacular language, it would be considered almost indecent. And yet, that has been the exact situation of Jewish women historically.

    What, then, is the distinction between a girl who (shocking!) has been taught to read Hebrew and who can daaven from the standard prayerbook and a girl wearing tefillin? Both have a halachic basis and neither has thousands of years of Jewish history behind them. The only difference is that one is now standard in the Orthodox community and the other is not.

    What will the writer of this article do when the Chareidim ban women’s singing and dancing at the wall? Didn’t she enjoy serving Hashem with joy, stopping to sing and dance during Hallel? Well, did Chana pray that way? No, she prayed silently. Maybe all of the women at the wall should also be silent, lest their songs or their enthusiasm or their joy disturb the men.

    Does that sound far-fetched? When some Charedim feel justified stoning other Jews and spitting on 8 year old girls, what you need to understand is that *there is no limit*. There is no limit to how quiet, how silent, how invisible you can ask a woman to be.

    “The beauty of the King’s daughter is all within.” Everything can be justified by one verse in Psalms. Everything from dark stockings vs. light, shalim (a complete innovation in tsiniyut), singing zmirot vs. silence at the table, allowing a woman’s face to be published in a newspaper … the list goes on.

    Secular Jews and some modern Orthodox have joined Women at the Wall because they know that they need to take a stand against those Charedim who feel no commitment to democracy, pluralism, *secular law* or any tolerance of difference. Public space in Israel should belong to all Israelis. Whether the Kotel constitutes a public space or an Orthodox synagogue is the question at hand and that question can and will be decided by Israeli legal authorities, not by men throwing chairs.

    Today, you all reject the idea of these women, but in 50 years, it could easily be yourselves who will be kept out of the men’s section because your dress is not appropriate or your beards are too short or you are not Ashkenazi.

    Be careful of what you allow to be done to your enemies — when they come for you, there may be no one left to speak up for you.

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