(photo credit: REUTERS)
Women at the Wall
Two pieces recently appeared in The Jerusalem Post regarding the Women of the Wall. The first described their latest attempt to conduct prayer services on Rosh Hodesh (“Women of the Wall subjected to body searches despite High Court order,” August 24). The second, “The mouse that roared” (Comment & Features, August 27), was a critique of these women, many of whom are adherents of Conservative and Reform Judaism, both statistically insignificant movements in Israel.
As an Orthodox woman, I respect any woman who chooses to pray in a prayer shawl and tefillin if these ritual objects enhance her prayer experience, given how challenging it is for one to achieve a deeply spiritual connection to The Divine. Furthermore, the celebration of Rosh Hodesh is a unique holiday, granted to women because they did not participate in the Sin of the Golden Calf.
The Women of the Wall, however, have declared time and again that they come to demonstrate that they have the same rights as men. They do not arrive quietly. They do not arrive with a sense of awe and respect. Instead, they are loud, inconsiderate of other worshipers and engage in behavior challenging the mode and order of prayer at the Kotel.
A good example is why they blew the shofar at the conclusion of their most recent service.
“We sounded the shofar today in order to knock down the walls of apathy, exclusion, silencing and discrimination....”
All noble goals, but none that have anything to do with prayer at the Wall. The shofar is sounded in the month of Elul as a conversation between God and the Jewish people, to arouse Jews to repentance before the High Holy Days and awaken within God His mercy and forgiveness of our sins.
The Western Wall is not Montgomery, Alabama, and the women coming there to pray ought not think of themselves as Rosa Parks challenging segregation.
The Kotel is hallowed ground.
All women, Jew or gentile, religious or secular, need to conduct themselves at the Wall with dignity and respect as befits the customs and traditions of such a holy site. Those unable to comply are welcome to choose another location.
After all, God is everywhere.
LILA LOWELL Jerusalem
I felt sad when I read Leah Aharoni’s “The mouse that roared.”
The statistics were taken from the numbers of congregations, the numbers of people signed up and the wealthy donors. But what about the man in the street? There are far more of them. They haven’t signed up because they don’t want to identify with lifestyles that jar them.
In America, “belonging” involves money – or opting out. In Israel it means acquiescing in many ways that are not agreeable, either because they offend morality or because they are not practical here. Because of the increasing weight of the Orthodox establishment backed by government money and politics, most people keep quiet and do not affiliate.
Are these people not worth considering? Must their individual heartaches be ignored or dismissed as unimportant?
HELEN LEVENSTON Jerusalem
The August 29 issue of The Jerusalem Post
carried a letter criticizing the environmentally inappropriate external appearance of a new hotel in Jerusalem (“Inside and out”).
When I made aliya 12 years ago, I had an initial chat with my new family doctor, during which she commented that I was living in a new and attractive block on Hebron Road, not far from where the new hotel is. Taking her lead, I inquired as to where she lived, and with a somewhat apprehensive expression, she said “the Holyland buildings.”
Anyone with a ha’porth of taste knows that those building resemble a charging herd of hippopotamuses or rhinoceroses, so she seemed quite surprised when I commented on how lucky she was.
“How’s that?” she asked. I responded: “From your flat, you can see my building and you can’t see your own.”
STANLEY COHEN Jerusalem