June 25: Western Wall fashion

What is a tallit versus a scarf or a shawl?

Letters 521 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Letters 521
(photo credit: 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 befuddled.
This begs the question: What is a tallit versus a scarf or a shawl?
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 men.
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 Justice.
Not-so-smug Alice
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 books.
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 this.
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 Walker.
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 20).
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 this!
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.
The 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 nuclear reactor.”
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.
Israeli law 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.
DAVID S. ADDLEMAN Mevaseret Zion
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 Arafat’s ear.
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 double standard.
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.