I’m all for women’s rights, but when it comes to the Women of the Wall (WoW) organization, I see our earliest feminist leaders, such as Miriam, Ruth and Esther shaking their heads from above. They are probably saying, “You got it all wrong, ladies.”
WoW is one of the most controversial “women’s rights” groups; its members have been arrested for taking on men’s traditional clothing and customs at the Western Wall (Kotel). They are obviously not haredi women, but seemingly wanting to take on haredi traditions, they blatantly disrespect traditional Jewish customs in the holiest place of worship for many Jews.
They seem more intent on making a statement than actually praying. They are so intent on getting their presence known, judging by their elaborate website and media coverage. At the end of the day it’s between you and G-d; not a show for everyone else.
In turn, they miss the very essence and beauty of why men (and not women) are commanded to wear tefillin and tallit in the first place. Women don’t need to touch the tallit to be reminded to connect to spirituality and guide themselves away from impure thoughts. They are considered to be naturally more spiritual and virtuous by nature. They don’t need to wear the “shawl” over their heads to stay focused on the subject at hand and not get distracted by all the beautiful men. Judaism holds women in the highest regard. If the Women of the Wall understood the true meaning behind the traditions then I believe they would act more respectfully.
Let’s be realistic: not all Jewish women are treated the way they should be. I think of the saying “don’t judge Judaism by the Jews.” The husbands that respect the traditions for shalom bayit, or peace in the home, (mine included), make so many Jewish women sure happy to be part of “the Tribe.” There are many sources, heroines and examples in the Torah that show Judaism’s stance on woman and their importance. The Women of the Wall have obvious strengths that would be much more appreciated by many, if aimed at better directed causes.
I’m sure G-d would hear their prayers with or without the tallit... but it isn’t really about that now, is it? It’s a holy site for all Jews and should be treated as such. I view what’s written in the Torah and handed down by sages as holy. Do they? There are worse criminals out there then tallit-draped women, it’s true. Donning traditional men’s prayer shawls and singing in front of men is not respectful for religious folks and if they don’t agree, then there are many places they can congregate. All people want is for them to be respectful of others’ customs and traditions.
These women would not likely go to a Muslim holy site and start singing “Shema Yisrael,” so why can’t they respect religious Jews as well? Oh yes, because they actually have the freedom in Israel to make a stink about everything. Israel has enough problems, and as a woman I can say this does not help Israel or women, but maybe only helps these individuals by stroking their own egos.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not feel spiritually superior; I am only taking opinions from a couple thousand years of tradition. It seems many leftist thinkers seem to know better. Meanwhile they have helped Israel become weaker and more hated. Let’s make one thing clear: At the Wall, women are allowed to pray. The Torah gives men certain separate mitzvot (some for women are even considered more important). I’m not a rabbi nor am I haredi... I just respect those that are. In my opinion, a holy place should not be a stage for political agendas. There is a certain code of conduct at holy sites. If Joe Shmoe wants to chant and run around in his underwear at the Kotel, should he be allowed to just because it is his way of connecting spiritually? We may have a bigger problem on our hands than women in prayer shawls, but a line must be drawn somewhere.
I too question and dispute much of the haredi lifestyle, but on the other hand I respect them. They stick to the laws of the Torah and it’s a slippery slope once you think you can start changing the rules. We don’t all have to abide by them (I certainly have not) but I will not figuratively spit in the faces of those that do. I feel WoW to be doing this and therefore do not support them on their “mission.” I of course do not support the literal spitting of some haredim at these women. Their obvious frustration has unfortunately led them to express themselves in inappropriate ways. Haredim do not own the Wall but they certainly have earned the right to dictate what religious standards should be, and what the standards of conduct should be, in the holiest place of worship for all us Jews.
By all means, pray away! Why must this turn into such a big deal for people’s freedoms and women’s rights? Women of the Wall cause unnecessary problems inside Israel and with our onlookers. I’ve come across documented statements (by anti-Israeli/Jewish accusers) that actually use WoW as an example of how Israel mistreats its citizens. The absurdity of Israeli Arabs and leftist Israelis also making these statements is draining.
We very well know they would all be beheaded in any other Middle Eastern country for making the slightest anti-government peep. The way I see it, Israel could use some unity for a change. Don’t we have enough enemies ready to really end our freedoms?
The author is a graphic and Web designer living, working and loving in Jerusalem.