Comment: Women of the Wall's one way street

Women of the Wall’s quest for freedom of religion cuts only one way. Theirs.

Women of the Wall370 (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAORFF)
Women of the Wall370
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAORFF)
All animals are equal; but some animals are more equal than others.
The Orwellian quote was the first thing that came to mind, as I tried to process the fact that this Rosh Chodesh the Israel Police, for the first time since 1967, prevented hundreds of Orthodox  Jews from reaching the Kotel Plaza to pray. Why? To enable Women of the Wall to hold their service at the Wall, the very wall that Anat Hoffman’s movement had proclaimed "should not consider … as possessing any sanctity.”
Unlike Women of the Wall, Orthodox worshipers did not bother to hire a public relations manager, call over an army of reporters, or prepare a tweet feed to update the world about the progress of their services. All they wanted was to pray. The police did a cold assessment of media damage control and the religious freedom of the Orthodox was conveniently pushed into the back seat.
In their fight to gain freedom of religion, Women of the Wall have stooped to every trick. Blackening Israel in foreign media as subjugating women, creating a rift between Israel and Diaspora communities, comparing themselves to rape victims – no tactic was too low for reaching the vaunted goal – freedom of religion.
Yet Women of the Wall’s quest for freedom of religion cuts only one way. Theirs. When their freedom infringes on the rights of hundreds of regulars to pray at the Kotel, they couldn’t care less. Of course the suspension of bus service, hours-long traffic jams, and a veritable siege on the Old City of Jerusalem were a small price to pay for the final and complete “liberation” of the Western Wall from the “iron-fisted” Orthodox rule.
The wisest of men, Solomon, teaches us that as water reflects a face, so one man’s heart reflects that of the other. For years, Women of the Wall have decried their mistreatment at the hands of all and sundry. They have styled themselves as unfortunate victims of mindless oppression, who just want to be left alone. It would seem that what WOW activists see around them is but a reflection of their own scorn and disdain for anyone who dares to disagree with their militant agenda. The haredim (ulra-Orthodox) are branded as “fundamentalists” and dissenting women are dismissed as “threatened [and] diminished,” having “internalize[d] sexist beliefs.”
Women of the Wall’s lack of sensitivity to the other was especially appalling as their prayers continued. While thousands of Jerusalemites were held up to accommodate their monthly event, WOW perpetuated their victimhood narrative, tweeting about being "caged in,” even as they pronounced the Shema.
Is there no limit to hypocrisy, to media manipulation, to PR spinning? Is there no sense of human decency, of consideration, of opening one’s mind to perceive the overall effect of one’s action?
Then again, would you expect anything different from a group that compares itself to the infamous Korach? Yes, the same Korach who threw the entire Jewish nation into turmoil in a power grab attempt thinly veiled as a quest for democratic values and universal human rights. The same Korach abhorred by the Jewish tradition as the master of populist rhetoric and manipulative cunning at the service of self-aggrandizement. The same Korach, who is the symbol of a dispute not for the sake of heaven, but for the sake of the dispute itself.
If this is the Women of the Wall’s role model, is there any chance for dialogue and a solution? We sincerely hope so. From day one, before taking any action we reached out to Women of the Wall with various proposals for conversation. They turned us down every single time. In fact, when the two groups were invited for a media briefing this week, Women of the Wall representatives refused to be in the same room with us. When approach with a friendly “hello,” they avoided eye contact and made their disinterest patently clear.  Even the liberal European journalists were incredulous.
Women of the Wall demand tolerance from millions of Israelis, religious and secular, who just can’t wrap their heads around the tiny group’s insistence on swimming against the tide. But for WoW it’s my way or the highway.
Everyone else be damned.
Leah Aharoni is a business coach for small women-owned business. Together with Ronit Peskin, she co-founded Women FOR the Wall, a grassroots movement aimed at preserving the sanctity of the Western Wall and keeping it within consensus.