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Jew vs. Jew at the Western Wall

At the Western Wall, the latest incarnation of an ancient Jewish battle between tradition and modernity

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Anat Hoffman arrested at the Wall on Oct. 16, 2012. (Women of the Wall)

For the Women of the Wall, a group that has gathered each month for the past 23 years to pray at the Western Wall, things have never been easy: They’ve been heckled, arrested for “hurting the feelings of other worshippers,” and been the target of stones and dirty diapers. But in the past few months, police enforcement at the wall has become more maladroit than Officer Krupke: Women are now being searched for tallit and tefillin as they enter the wall’s precincts, an eerie and unwitting echo of a time when the Soviets would ransack the baggage of visiting Americans for evidence of Jewish ritual objects.

The prime minister, caught in a crossfire between the Women of the Wall’s passionate American supporters and his traditionalist coalition at home, has appointed Natan Sharansky to try to figure out a way to accommodate the Orthodox rabbinate that controls the site (and has since the restoration of Jewish sovereignty) and those who wish to pray at the wall in whatever fashion they choose. Sharansky, a chess master, may find himself in Zugzwang, a position in which making any move on the board ensures a loss. In such a quintessentially Jewish way, this wall of stones has become a mirror.

When incendiary issues flare in our political or religious life, we are treated to a farrago of insinuation and insult, accusation and obloquy, and the inevitable claim of opponents being traitorous to the accuser’s view of Judaism. This is a Jewish tradition with the deepest roots: The worst catastrophes in our history were too often precipitated by infighting among the Jews themselves. Why should this fight—between those loyal to the tradition, and those determined for Judaism to adapt to modernity—be different from all others?

For the traditionalists—let’s leave specific labels aside, since on each side there are those who do not easily fit into the “haredi” or “feminist” camps—the issue is one of conservation. Although there is some warrant in Jewish law for women wearing tallitot, for thousands of years the idea of a woman wearing a tallit, or even more so tefillin, was mostly unheard of. It was so unconventional that the rabbis rarely needed to mobilize reasons.

For traditionalists, it is disturbing enough to imagine that somewhere in Beverly Hills a woman is reading from the Torah. But is there to be no precinct, even that of the Holy Temple, exempt from the inroads of a hostile modernity? Do the people who care most deeply have to be the ones whose sensibilities are always to be sacrificed?

The truth, uncomfortable for some, is that as a general rule the more Judaism dominates one’s life, the more likely one is to oppose women’s equality in Judaism. If you dismiss “this is the way God wishes it” out of hand, then why should you care so deeply about sites where the devout go to worship God?

For the modernists, part of the power of religion is its willingness to challenge the social structure. This is the legacy of the prophets and, in some incarnations, of the rabbis. Individualism, free speech, and democracy have taken root as part of the ideology of modern Judaism. Armed with these Western principles, modern Jewish scholars have searched for their antecedents in our tradition. Religion does not skate on the ice of time; Moses never wore a shtreimel and Maimonides did not speak Yiddish. God’s will, as modernists argue, is uncovered through history, not obscured by it.

Moreover, for the modernists, it is not only what is decided, but who decides. Women do not sit on the rabbinical counsels that determine that women should not sit on the rabbinical counsels—a nice bit of circular reasoning. Though Israel’s rabbinic establishment insists it is enacting God’s unchanging law, how can we not be suspicious of those who legislate in such a way that the power remains in their own hands?

In short, both the traditionalist and the modernist arguments have merit.

***

I can already hear the howls. The modernists will respond that the same argument for the sanctity of tradition could be made on behalf of slavery. The traditionalists will argue that giving everyone the right to determine Jewish tradition is equivalent to destroying that tradition and point to the assimilation of American Jews as Exhibit A.

I don’t want to pretend to dispassion here. I serve in a synagogue that employs female rabbis and cantors. My father, who was a rabbi in Philadelphia, hired the first female ordained by the Conservative movement as his assistant, upon her graduation. I believe the leadership of women in religious life as in all walks of life is not only tremendously beneficial, but indispensable.

Still, my conviction does not blind me to the power of the counterargument. It does not persuade me that everyone who disagrees with the Women of the Wall is motivated by ignorance or misogyny.

Failing to sympathize with the traditionalists’ ideology, as so many modernists do, demonstrates a disdain for certain religious passion, and even a certain lack of human fellow feeling. After all, the power of custom has long been venerated in Judaism. As G.K. Chesterton wrote, tradition is democracy of the dead; if everyone who ever lived had a vote, tradition would win. To disregard it without thought or reverence is simply not the Jewish way.

Too many fear that to understand the opposition means they cannot argue their own side with passion and conviction. Yet there are very few disputes in human life where all the worthiness lives on one side of the divide. We have just lived through an election season where significant numbers of each party seemed to think the other afflicted with wickedness, idiocy, or wicked idiocy. This is not an intellectually respectable position, no matter how often you hear it on talk shows—or occasionally, alas, from pulpits.

Reversing ancient religious practices is a painful process, and I don’t imagine Women of the Wall will ever sing kumbaya with the rabbinical overseers of the Old City. But I wonder how things could change if each side conceded, however grudgingly, that the other side does have a point.

When Sharansky comes up with his compromise, we will know if either side is prepared to engage in that once-venerated tradition of listening. Remember that the mezuzah stands on a slant because the rabbis disagreed about whether it should be vertical or horizontal. Every Jewish doorway is a testimony to our willingness to accommodate one another. Now let’s see if it works with a wall.

***

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This is a very well written and thought out argument for basically a conciliatory approach. I only wish that Rabbi Wolpe had given a suggestion as to what compromise he would make.

I personally agree with Rabbi Mark Angel that no organized services should be allowed at the wall, only individual prayer, that is in some sense a punt, but an important one. The Western Wall traditionally was not a synagogue and therefore, its use as one cannot be argued from tradition.

This is a very well written and thought out argument for basically a conciliatory approach. I only wish that Rabbi Wolpe had given a suggestion as to what compromise he would make.

I personally agree with Rabbi Mark Angel that no organized services should be allowed at the wall, only individual prayer, that is in some sense a punt, but an important one. The Western Wall traditionally was not a synagogue and therefore, its use as one cannot be argued from tradition.

David Sucher says:

Seems yours is a far too complicated an argument to me, Rabbi Wolpe.
Women are people.
People should be allowed to pray.
Period.

For the sake of political compromise I can see why you might hope for a compromise and that all would “listen.” I can understand that it would be nice to have a Solomonic compromise. But no matter the parsing, ultimately the traditionalists are wrong. Sometimes things have to change, and as with desegregation in the USA, sometimes one view must lose. I am not unmindful that politicians have a tough job but I think that they have to start with the modernist view as correct and work to a compromised based on that initial understanding.

Unless i am missing something else, strikes me that the traditionalist view must lose.

pkbrandon says:

So Israel has gone from being a theocracy to being a police state.
So much for being our ‘fellow democracy’ in the Middle East.
And note (and this may or may not be significant) that the woman appears to be Ashkenazi and the police Sephartic. Israel definitely has some serious problems.

Neil Tarasoff says:

OY Vey, what a mess!

Naomi Paiss says:

Rabbi Wolpe’s calm arguments miss one key point. Liberals and modernists excel at respecting the other sides’ arguments — the notion that there is not one truth or interpretation of truth is key to a modern worldview. But the other side does not value fairness or give-and-take and this intransigence is literally holy to its perpetrators. So it’s an imbalanced situation, asymmetrical warfare if you will, in which the side that gives and acknowledges always loses to the side that does not value those virtures. No haredi authority will see virtue in compromise, and compromise there will not be.

Moshe Feiglin just got arrested for the third time for quietly worshipping God on the Temple Mount. Where’s Hoffman’s outrage about that? Or has she saved it all for those who object to someone intentionally trying to disturb others?

Make the Western Wall into a handball court and be done with it.

“Reversing ancient religious practices is a painful process, and I don’t imagine Women of the Wall will ever sing kumbaya with the rabbinical overseers of the Old City. But I wonder how things could change if each side conceded, however grudgingly, that the other side does have a point.”

Rabbi Wolpe, how does one concede that those of an opposing viewpoint “have a point” without acknowledging the correctness of that point, if that viewpoint is an absolute? If the orthodox who control the Wall say that women cannot wear tefillin or talitot at the Wall, where is there room for compromise? The last time I looked, “no” means “no”.
If there is room for accommodation, then I believe that Israeli ingenuity will find a solution. But, to paraphrase the punchline of a very old joke, the powers-that-be have to want there to be an accommodation (i.e. the desire to change), and that seems in short supply.

The difference is, Lisa, that the “Temple Mount” is the site of a Muslim holy place, which Israel has always recognized. His intent IS to incite. The Women of the Wall merely want a place, period. They have none.

There already is a compromise. An area of the Wall has been designated for non traditional prayer. Liberal Jews can pray as they want at Robinson’s Arch as per a ruling of the Israeli Supreme Court. Its the same wall.

The strange thing is that the Orthodox have not protested this arrangement, They have not attempted to block non traditional prayer at this area despite the fact they do not agree with it. They have adopted a policy of live and let live.

No so for Anat Hoffman of the Reform movement. The question is why.has she been unwilling to accept compromise.

It comes down to two things.

Reform Jews say “Why should be second class in another area-we should pray as others at the main Wall area”. What is driving this question ? The need for validation based on the feeling “our approach to Judaism is equally valid”.

Lets be truthful the unilateral changes to Jewish belief and tradition by Reform and others have not been accepted by the majority of Jewish congregations in the world. (The majority worldwide are Orthodox-the reform are primarily an american movement and very strong there).

They need to take some responsibility and understand when they deny basic Jewish beliefs such as the Divinity of Torah and attempt to forcibly change a mode of prayer that reaches back to King Solomon they will discover opposition from great numbers of Jews. They made the changes in Jewish belief and practice, they need to accept the fact that many to not agree with them. Its not an issue of equality, but its a theological divide that cannot be bridged.

Second, This campaign by Hoffman and friends has been cause for rallying the liberal base in the US, which is suffering a lack of direction. Its been great fundraising and pr.

The question needs to be asked, Nu its great pr, we want validation, but do we need this to divide Jewish communities around the world?

And LIberals should realize if they continue to push, the Orthodox may push back. A few posters in Jerusalem signed by the right rabbis will bring out a crowd of hundreds of thousands to protest their non traditional prayer at Robinson’s Arch.

Responsible leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements should pause for a moment and ask is this the battle we want to have now.

It’s nice to know that snarky comments are also welcome here :)

I did not know woman could not pray at the wall. :-( I have always wanted to go to Jerusalem and pray at the wall. I guess they would not like that I read Torah. Reading the Torah it seems that God does not make the distinction between man and woman coming to him and praying but it is a tradition made by men. Even the temple had a woman’s court where they could pray and worship undisturbed!

Richard D. Cameron says:

If, in fact, the Orthodox/Heredi establishment will never compromise, then they must forfeit, forever, their hegemony over all religious questions in a democratic state.

M. A. Edward says:

Women have always been the keepers of the faith in any society in this world. The education and the implementing of faith has always been in the hands of the women. She is the closes as well as the furthest person in their entire life for any child born of a woman. In this world that is fast growing devoid of faith and belief in G*D, believing women of faith are the ones that need to be at the forefront of this war. There is no room for negotiations here – help is needed and we accept all hands that are willing to come forward and enlist. Even G*D in HIS greatness and glory enlisted women to get the job done. This is about legacy, about the survival and the nourishing of the human spirit – this is about the survival and the continuation of the fittest. Remember, man was born of a woman.

Since there is a mechitza – the dividing wall perpendicular to THE wall……the men should NOT be looking at the women….so, their argument should be moot. What the women are wearing or not wearing – assuming the men are upholding their idea if modesty – tzneius – ( NOT LOOKING) – interesting that they are that concerned about what they can’t see. If they are truly focused on their davening with kavana – with their thoughts and minds solely on their prayers…they wouldn’t have time to focus on what some women MIGHT be wearing!

If some orthodox women are opposed to seeing a woman with a talles or tephillin – the same idea holds. If you are reading, if you are praying and if your thoughts are where they belong….then like most every mother has learned the art of selective hearing and seeing….as in “tune out the crying and ignore the mess”.

In other words, everyone who is dedicated to davening…should pay attention to their own davening and not be looking around to see what others are doing. If you are looking around INSTEAD.of davening “with all your heart, with all your might and with all your soul” …then it is YOU who are not fulfilling the purpose of praying at the wall!!.. Then you are taking on the role of judge, participating in loshan hara, and a dozen other no no’s – …which for those who flaunt they they follow the laws… they cannot be doing – LOOKING to find faults and flaws, tattleling = gossiping, . Oy a bruch!!

Thank you for this excellent discussion of the issues of religious freedom for all Jews, regardless of gender or adjective, in the Jewish State. With Mr. Sharansky on the project, I am hopeful that Israel will begin to recognize the spiritual civil rights of all Jews. I underscore Rabbi Wolpe’s comments voicing concern about Who is making the public Jewish decisions in Israel. Israel’s democratic aspirations commands that more than one voice of Judaism be involved in the deciding how We Do Jewish in the Jewish State.

CygnusA81 says:

If anyone is interested the Israeli point of view of this whole mess, just read Jonathan Tobin from Commentary. Like usual this whole mess comes to down Jewish American liberal morality absolutism.

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2012/12/27/the-women-and-the-wall-between-israel-and-the-diaspora/#more-814732

While, I am not Orthodox and most likely never will because I love traif food to much, Tobin, does present the rational Israeli view on this matter and why nothing will change at the Kotel.

gwhepner says:

TRADITION, WALLS, FENCES AND BEDS

Tradition, famously said G. K. Chesterton,

is democracy conceived for those who’re dead.

That’s why some walls are fences you should sit upon,

and notremake them every day just like a bed.

gwhepner@yahoo.com

PhillipNagle says:

Like most holy sites in Israel in general and in Jerusalem in particular, the Kotel has been turn over to religious groups. And like most holy sites including the Church of the Holy Sepilchre (controled by Christians) and the Temple Mount (controled by Moslems), there is constant contrversy over that control, including violence at all three sites though probably less at the Kotel than the other two sites. There is a question as to how much the government of Israel should intervene in the running of the various holy sites. Over all I believe they have done the job well but there are always groups like radical feminists who insist that everyone conform to their way of doing things.

Eureka! I have the solution!

Construct three or four other walls!

Let this one for orthodox Jews

The second would be for the conservatives

The third for the reformist

The fourth for the ultra reformists

Each group would be allowed the manage his wall as he likes…

There would be special gaps to introduce pen-drives

They could even hire Arabs to throw stones on the people that pray

They could allow some graffiti (with social justice themes)

I believe that everyone would be happy, besides attracting a lot of tourists

re: “When Sharansky comes up with his compromise…”

“When”? I think you mean “If”.

herbcaen says:

There is space at the Western Wall for everyone to pray as they like. The Kotel is an Orthodox synagogue. The Robinsons Arch area is also part of the Western Wall and is set aside for Reform and Conservative. Anat Hoffman is not driven by spirituality but by self promotion. There was a Womens Court on in the Second Bait Hamikdosh, located approximately midway between Al Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock. I have no objection if she wants to daven there-good luck with that. But davening on the Temple Mount would offend Muslims, a group that cannot be offended-but Orthodox Jews, everyone has the right to offend

gwhepner says:

TRADITION, WALLS, FENCES AND BEDS

Tradition,famously said G. K. Chesterton,

is democracy conceived for those who’re dead.

That’s why some walls are fences you should sit upon,

and not remake them every day just like a bed.

gwhepner@yahoo.com

gwhepner says:

Extremely funny, Salomon Mizrahi.. Thank God some Tablet readers have a sense of humor. Although when I say that I remind myself of Lord Alfred Douglas, whose epitaph is said to contain this joke:

After his death Judas Iscariot, with the characteristic gall
of his type, presented himself at the entrance of Heaven and was refused
admission by the angel at the gate. “Why
can’t I come in?” inquired Judas. “Well,
you know you betrayed the Savior for thirty pieces of silver,” replied the
angel. “Good heavens!” said Judas
Iscariot, “Have you no sense of humour?”

I wrote a poem about this, but will spare the Readers of Tablet yet another poem.

gwhepner@yahoo.com

NeilSchluger says:

Rabbi Wolpe’s article brings to mind (perhaps consciously, on his part) the words of the great poet Yehuda Amichai who wrote: “Jerusalem, the only city in the world/where the right to vote is granted even to the dead.”

Personally, I prefer to pray at Robinson’s Arch–it’s quieter and on the original street level; maybe Hillel walked on those very stones. Would that so many liberal Jews would pray there out of a feeling of obligation and commandedness that it would develop a holiness to rival or exceed the Kotel plaza–a holiness determined by what it is, not what it was.

Rabbi Wolpe’s insight and commentary are welcome. I share his position that “there are very few disputes in human life where all the worthiness lives on one side of the divide.” I also agree with some of the other commentors here, who argue that “sometimes things have to change.” They do. I think Rabbi Wolpe would agree, too. The trick is accepting the 2-steps-forward-for-1-step-back mode of progress that is most typical. In other words, the Kotel shouldn’t become an all-or-nothing battle. Making it one, no matter how high your moral ground, lessens your chance of success while it dehumanizes your political/ideological opponent(s). When folks in both camps are wringing their hands about any agreed upon compromise, then it was a good one. The trick is remembering to note how each side benefited…and to celebrate that.

If these Jewish women only knew how much true power they have they would give up trying to be as good as men. Seriously, how stupid can you get? I pray the status of the Wall never changes. Considering the reform movement doesn’t believe in G-d or the Divinity of the Torah, they sure are making a big deal out of what they believe is nothing.

As far as inciting the Arabs by stepping foot on the Temple Mount, give it a rest. A Jew being a Jew anywhere in Eretz HaKodesh incites the Arabs.

Of course women can pray at the Kotel. Anybody that says no is a liar. They just can’t pray with the men, as a man.

So you think that a tradition with thousands of years of observance should bend to a G-d is Dead theocracy (Reform Movement) not even several hundred years old? No way.

These are not women of “faith” unless you call radical feminism a “faith”. Their goal is to destroy the status quo because it doesn’t work for them. In a word, assholes.

Are you serious? First off, any Jew anywhere in Israel incites Arabs. Recognizing importance doesn’t mean hegemony. The Temple Mount is in their hands for political reasons, not because it means more to them than us. And as for the Women of the Wall, they have the women’s side of the Kotel. Guess it’s not good enough for them.

Thanks for noticing!

Thanks Gwhepner! I tought about using anti-Salomonic laws…Instead threatening both women to cut the child in two pieces, why not ruling that the lady who wants the disputed baby should be obliged to adopt three other orphan babies… The same with wall, replica walls for everybody… even for export…why not a Wailing Wall in Washington?

Anat Hoffman is wearing a very beautiful shawl, my wife asked me to ask (the readers) if somebody knows in which shop it can be acquired…she says: it´s really fantastic, very chic!

What you don’t seem to understand is our religious perspective is that WOMEN don’t wear talis and tefilin period. Taking it to the WALL is taking it to the extreme. There are certain commandments for women and there are certain commandments for men. G-d created man to serve a purpose and G-d created women to serve a purpose and Taleisim and Tefilin have nothing to do with it!! Do these women perhaps abide by the laws and mitzvos that G-d did command of them? Do they follow Taharas Mishpacha for instance? Do they follow even basic laws such as Kashrus? Why choose a Man’s mitzvah and take up a cause all the way to the Western Wall? It is NOT a conservative, reform, traditional or whatever other movement who are in charge of the wall. It is the Orthodox religious Jews who oversee the Western Wall and therefore just as you can’t walk into an Orthodox Synagogue dressed this way or in any other way inappropriately you can’t do it at the wall.

Women can’t just choose to walk in with bare arms or halter top either, nor in a mini skirt. They are given a wrap in which to cover themselves, and men are given a kippah to put on their heads. This also doesn’t happen in any other temple or synagogue other than an Orthodox one. This is a holy place, the last remaining wall of the Bais Hamikdash. Just as NO one would have been allowed to enter dressed irreverently then, so too no one is allowed to enter dressed that way now.

WE can’t stop any woman who chooses to wear men’s tefilin, tallis or even lein from the Torah which is NOT a woman’s mitzvah. But we certainly don’t have to accomodate their wants at the most holy of holy places. Would the pope allow women into the Vatican if they chose to dress like him?????

Of course women come to pray at the wall, there is a section for men and a section for women. Everyone must be dressed appropriately. If you are not, they will accomodate ou with a wrap.

dongszkie says:

i have a religious belief and conviction,a form of worship, that i hold to myself as the only way to have access to God if I remain true and steadfast to my commitment. but i don’t feel i have a God-given rights to kill people just because he/she happens to have a religious conviction that differs to what I personally feels to be the RIGHT one, nor the right to banish him/her from the place where I stand conversing to my God as if i am having the monopoly of right on a hallowed place. no matter how i feel right or having the truth to my God, it IS STILL God who WILL decide who REALLY among us is having the truth, and who among us is to be accepted to HIS favor. Let’s stop playing God and Judge while worshipping our diety, let’s remained what we really are–a mere worshipper seeking HIS favor, and confine it just there.

I’m kind of wondering if this new zero-tolerance has more to do with preventing those of us who are not of Jewish birth—but are Torah-observant—from honoring G-d and praying at the Kotel? It is my desire to someday visit Jerusalem and pray at the Wall, but I get the feeling that I would be sought out and refused access if my Chumash or head scarf was found in my purse. Am I mistaken? Or are non-Jews allowed to pray at the wall as long as they do so in a proper manner?

A couple of years ago I took my 6 year old daughter to Israel. We were standing about 50 feet from the wall and I showed her how the women were crowded into a small space, packed like sardines, while the men each had easy access to the wall and plenty of legroom. I explained to her that the Orthodox run the wall and asked her what she thinks the Orthodox think of women. The answer was so obvious that it wasn’t lost on a 6 year old. As long as the parliamentary government of Israel needs the Orthodox to win seats, they will forever dictate the rules, avoid the army and collect welfare. Makes our US system seem functional by comparison.

“… l’hiyot am chofshi…” Am CHOFSHI! Y’get it, guys
?

Why in the world would you say the Reform Movement has a God is Dead theocracy? I am not Reform but this seems a little (or a lot) overboard.

Who told you the reform movement doesn’t believe in God or the Divinity of the Torah. That is insane.

Guest says:

A**holes!!!! way to go Baba Wawa. An upright woman you are.

Well said Beth

Yes, and the haredi women bring chairs and hog the entire Wall, so the rest of us have to reach over them and get into lines to approach the Wall itself. They call attention to themselves, which is not a desirable way to be Jewish.

The problem with Rabbi Wolpe’s argument is that it does not acknowledge the religious seriousness of the so-called modernists. Democracy and Feminism are issues that arise from the conflict over prayer at the wall, as from many other social conflicts; but the central issue here is still PRAYER. Women of the Wall (not a Reform group, by the way, but a pluralistic group including Masorti and Modern Orthodox women) seeks to pray at the Wall in a religiously meaningful manner. The measures of religiously meaningful prayer are traditional ones: a minyan of worshippers rather than isolated individuals; wearing ritual reminders of the commandments in the form of tallitot and tefillin; and reading from the Torah. The only non-traditional part is that the participants are women. There are many other ways to protest issues of Democracy and Equality in Israel, and secular Israeli feminists protest in these ways and leave the Wall alone. The only people who care about women’s group prayer at the wall, are those who care for sincere religious reasons.

Richard D. Cameron says:

“Thousands of years of observance”…just a bit hyperbolic and unfactual. The Orthodox movement came into being in the mid-nineteenth century. Ritual observances of Jews throughout the centuries is not monolithic. Appropriate that you’ve expropriated Gilda Radner’s satirical Barbara Walter’s SNL moniker. As Baba Wawa, the Radner improvisation was as “factual” as your posting.

Richard D. Cameron says:

“Waw” is a stranger to facts. They get in the way of her ideology.

You know what the opposite of moral absolutism is? Moral relativism.

There isn’at religious problem at the Western Wall. There is a political problem. While the rabbis grabbed at the idea, the politicians decided to give the rabbis jurisdiction over the “wall precincts.” And they did what rabbis always do, they made it into a synagogue. Great! However, there are all kinds of Jews who want to see our national historical sites without being blind-sided by a rabbi telling him or her how to act of dress or do anything that a person does at any public place. When I went to the wall, I looked for the Robinson’s arches area, and nobody seemed to know. Not that it is a substitute for the Western Wall in the Jewish imagination, but does it really exist?

I think that the politicians should be “brave enough” to directly monitor the national historical sites, including the Western Wall.

If you are a man you can pray in the men’s section at the kotel in a group, out loud, wear your tallit and tefillin, read from the Torah, dance, sing and blow shofar. Not only that, but if you are a man you can pray and read Torah according to your custom (i.e. Sefardi/Ashkenazi/ etc.). If you are a woman, the current situation is that you can pray silently in the women’s section at the Kotel. Anything else will land you in jail. Women of the Wall’s mission is to gain the legal right for women to pray in a group, out loud, wearing tallit and tefillin, read Torah and blow Shofar in the women’s section of the Kotel. Not more and not less.

I think you would not be disturbed as long as you pray/study silently in the women’s section of the Kotel.

Chanan says:

Although I agree that the Orthodox are rigid in their views, I am not seeing any flexibility – or respect – on the part of the liberals. Am I wrong?

dongszkie says:

that whole area was being bought back from the hands of the muslims by the blood of all Israelis. And now it is the orthodox rabbinate who has the only rights in the area, to exclude the other Jew to practice their way of worship to the same God? Is God being own by the orthodox rabbinate also?

I’d like to add my two bits to Reuven’s comments. I visited the Kotel twice this past summer with my synagogue, which included not just davening, but celebrating a Bat-mitzvah at Robinson’s Arch.

I have to say that as it stands now, the Arch is a fully satisfactory place to daven, including celebrating a simcha. I say this not just as a recent participant, but as one who had his Bar-mitzvah at the ‘main’ Kotel too.

The reality is, there is plenty of ‘wall’ to go around (literally as well as figuratively – and someone should clue Jodi Rudoren and what passes for the NY Times editorial board that simple fact as well).

In addition to Robinson’s Arch, Jews have the ability to pray in part of the tunnel complex facing the wall, and women Davened on their own without a mechitza and without any grief either (though full-disclosure, they appeared to be Orthodox, so can’t say what the response would be had they put on a Tallit or Teffillin.)

There seemed to be an equal amount of space available for both men and women at the wall when I was there.

No need to build Salomon, the other three walls already exist. If you look closely, you will see that the Temple Mount is still a stable construction. One can conceivably pray at the Eastern, Northern, or Southern Wall. Just remember to wear a hat so you don’t get sun-stroke.

The Robinson’s Arch section is at the south-west corner of the mount (this would be to the right of that wooden monstrosity and fire-hazard of a ramp up to the Temple Mount when facing the main plaza).

Since it is considered part of an archaeological site, there is a seperate enterence that you go through rather than into the main plaza.

Here is the question that leaves me stymied. When reading the V’hovta section of the Shema, there seems to be a commandment stressing both the use of the mezuzah as well as tefillin. Since it seems that all Jews are proscribed to use mezuzot on their doors, why the gender selective use of tefillin only?

Well, Beth, as the old song goes, you’ve got to be carefully taught. You take your six year old daughter to one of the holiest places in Judaism and instead of making it a spiritual, uplifting, memorable experience, you teach her to hate. Really, you should be ashamed of yourself.

It reminds me of an American (Conservative, most likely) tour group I saw years ago. The guide pretended to “ask” permission, and then came back to his group and said that the “ultra-Orthodox” control the Wall and wouldn’t let them get close to it and pray- a blatant lie. I wanted to scream at him, but he had a rifle and who was I.

Because tefillin are worn only during the day, and so as a time-bound commandment are required of men only, while they are optional at most for women. Mezuzah is required all the time and so is binding on both. It’s a fundamental part of Jewish law, which is not based only on the Bible.

The Orthodox movement only came into being in the mid-nineteenth century because before then, there was no need for an Orthodox movement. Everyone was Orthodox. Only once movements such as Reform and Conservative began to pop up, did Orthodoxy actually become a movement.

Richard D. Cameron says:

Really Emmi?! Before the 19th century all Jews were Orthodox? What history book, pray tell, did you find this nonsensical gem? Ritual observance varied from family to family, town to town etc. The idea that all Jews were all anything, including Halachic observance is factual fiction.

That would be awesome!

Hamsa Rosenberg says:

No one has the “right” to offend…but sometime while exercising ACTUAL rights, it occurs collaterally. You’re comment is horrifying…and why the Earth is about to End.

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