Of all of the things going on in and around Israel right now, I wanted to briefly highlight the work of Women of the Wall, not because I always agree with them and their politics, but because their cause represents issues that should be important to all Jews, all Zionists, and all women and men.
Women of the Wall believe in women’s rights to participate in all aspects of praying, singing, and Torah reading that men participate in at the Kotel (Western Wall). This is against civil Israeli law, however.
Why? Well, that’s what makes this so fascinating and confounding. Religious Israeli politics have become enmeshed with secular ones, and it’s very tricky. Secular soldiers are required to uphold law, even if it’s religious in nature. That’s super complicated. The politics of religious policies regarding tznius, transportation on Shabbat in Israel, and similar issues have been discussed in detail elsewhere (Rabbi Zev Farber has dissected these quite elegantly in various places on the web), so I will refrain from elaborating.
A second complication is that at a recent “protest,” Anat Hoffman, Women of the Wall’s leader, was arrested and assaulted by Israeli police. I bring this up not because I want to disrespect the Israeli military or “bash” them, but because it should be unacceptable for any arrested protestor to be violated, and the fact that Ms. Hoffman was so horribly and disgustingly assaulted should not be ignored. Whatever the cause, democratic ideals must be upheld and respected, and Ms. Hoffman’s assault should be discussed in every synagogue in America.
Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills (where I used to teach Hebrew school) is having a public meeting about various Women of the Wall issues tonight, November 26. Rabbis from each denomination will be represented, and I applaud this synagogue for confronting all of the issues despite the uncomfortableness, complexity, and differing opinions. For event info, click HERE.
We are all in this together: Jews, lovers of Israel, women and men alike. Stand up for open dialogue and healthy discourse about how we can meet the needs of all Jews in Israel and all over the world.