June 25: Western Wall fashion
What is a tallit versus a scarf or a shawl?
Letters Photo: Thinkstock/Imagebank
Western Wall fashion
Sir, – The article about Deborah Houben being apprehended
by police for wearing a tallit in the Kotel plaza (“Woman detained at Kotel for
wearing ‘male’ tallit”) constituted light comedy reading material for the June
22 Jerusalem Post.
First of all, the accompanying photo showed her
wearing such a skimpy blouse that had she complied with police orders and
removed her tallit she would probably have been handed some sort of scarf to
conceal her chest and upper arms by haredi women sitting at the entrance to the
women’s section. Her tallit was actually serving to cover her more modestly,
whether intentionally or not.
Second, the police spokesman, quoting a
High Court of Justice ruling, assumed that only “female style” tallitot may be
worn, while Shmuel Rabinowitz, rabbi of the Western Wall, declared that the
police were plain wrong and should have arrested all of the many women wearing
any sort of tallit. He made the spokesperson sound positively
This begs the question: What is a tallit versus a scarf or a
Rabinowitz declared that only he determines what the guidelines are at
the Kotel. Therefore, it is apparent that anything functioning as a shawl or
scarf around women’s upper bodies, no matter how decorative or colorful, and
even if proffered by haredi women with the purest motives, must be inspected
only by him to pass muster.
The Western Wall rabbi should thus make
himself available for these inspections throughout the day for all women coming
to the Kotel who have included a scarf or shawl of any sort as part of their
attire so as to avoid having them detained by the police or accosted by haredi
Clearly, the rabbi must also take the time to inform the police that
only he makes the rules at the Kotel, and not the High Court of
Sir, – One can
certainly question whether author Alice Walker’s views are correct in regard to
the facts of Israel’s treatment of it citizens of Arab origin. One cannot argue,
however, against the author’s ability to control the distribution of her
Alan Dershowitz (“Alice Walker’s bigotry,” Observations, June 22)
correctly writes, “The laws of copyright were certainly not designed to
encourage or even permit selective censorship based on national origin or
religion.” But the laws of copyright clearly allow an author to approve or
disapprove the terms of distribution of his or her work. That Walker exercises
this right based on rather convoluted reasoning does not nullify
Dershowitz further writes that Walker’s writings should still be
published in Hebrew and “the royalties contributed to the NAACP and other civil
rights organizations that understand the true meaning of fighting against
bigotry and real apartheid.” Who is he to say that the majority of these
organizations do not agree with Walker?
Sir, – It is
clear that Alice Walker’s decision to not have The Color Purple published by an
Israeli firm was not motivated by bigotry. Instead, she is preventing a
publishing company, which she feels benefits from the brutal treatment of the
Palestinian people in the occupied territories, from profiting from her book. In
fact, there is already a Hebrew translation of her novel, just not one sold by
an Israeli publisher.
If Alan Dershowitz were to prevent one of his books
from being published by a Palestinian or Iranian publisher because of a desire
to not support the regimes there, I think it would be unfair to accuse him of
bigotry against the Palestinian or Persian people. It is the same case with
Statesmen being statesmen
Sir, – It seems we
are caught up in the season for statesmen to be distributing medals one to the
other, with both the presenters and the recipients relying on the public’s short
memory (“Kissinger: Arab recognition of Israel not enough for peace,” June
Of course we remember that not so long ago Henry Kissinger was held
in the lowest regard by Israelis. The public is not stupid and we recognize the
whole palaver for what it is: nothing more than an onanistic round of photo
opportunities for all participants involved.
Please save us from more of
Sir, – Why President Shimon Peres felt that
former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger deserved to be given a medal from
the State of Israel is a puzzle to me. Kissinger never did anything to connect
with Judaism or to help Soviet Jewry or the State of Israel, even when the
latter was attacked in 1973.
I would also question his reference to his
parents, who happened to have been neighbors with my parents in Manhattan’s
Washington Heights neighborhood for years. His parents were quite unhappy, to
say the least, when their son, who had been brought up Orthodox, brazenly
decided not only to marry a non-Jewish women, but did so on Shabbat.
fact is that Kissinger always tried to run away from his Jewishness so as to
prove that he was 100 percent American, although this did not fool his boss,
Richard Nixon, who at times referred to him as a “Jewboy.”
Beyond the pale
Sir, – In “Tibi against naming Taibe space
center after Ramon” (June 20), MK Ahmed Tibi is quoted as calling this move
“distasteful and unjustified,” claiming the late astronaut Ilan Ramon, during
his military service, attacked “civilian targets in Lebanon and also Iraq’s
There has never been a single shred of evidence that at
any time Ramon was guilty of anything other than fulfilling his duty as an
Israeli soldier, faithfully defending his country and all its citizens – one of
whom happens to be this very MK. The fact that Tibi chooses to defame, discredit
and denigrate Ramon’s good name puts him beyond the pale.
must be restructured to eject such a person if not from its midst, then at least
from its seat of government, where he presently resides.
Sir, – Ahmed Tibi cannot be accused of dual allegiance.
He has only one allegiance – to the Arab people.
Israel may be stuck with
him but he certainly has no place in the Knesset as he has no loyalty to the
state. His actions influence Arab citizens to identify only as Palestinians and
not as Israelis.
Many of us remember Tibi as Yasser Arafat’s adviser. One
can only wonder what he was saying when he would lean over to whisper into
What we can be sure of is that Ahmed Tibi is no friend of
the State of Israel.
Sir, – Ahmed Tibi has
considerable influence as an adviser to the Palestinian Authority. Having such
influence he should be expected to discourage the naming of so many PA projects
after those people who have succeeded in killing a large number of Israelis. His
strong objection to naming the space center after Ilan Ramon sounds like a
Tibi should make a major contribution to finding ways to
bring the PA and Israel to the negotiating table. If he were serious in this
direction many of the actions of both sides that cause friction and discomfort
could be avoided.