Don’t Pen Me In

 On Thursday June 14, Women of the Wall took a stand for the right of women to pray freely in the women’s section of the Kotel by refusing to go in the pen (the cage like structure in the back of the woman’s section). The Western Wall Heritage Foundation (WWHF) security employee said that the women must go into the pen and if they refused they could not protect them.” They also said that if WoW refused, they would be banned from the Kotel and bringing a Torah into the women’s section would also bring the same fate.

Anat Hoffman, WoW’s chair told the security employee that it was his job to protect WoW anywhere in the women’s section and the tefilla group went into the women’s section to pray, unpenned. Unfortunately, the very organized opposition was on hand to make sure the prayer was anything but peaceful.

The women with the whistles, deranged screaming that sounded like the dementors from Harry Potter, and protest banners were there to block out any possibility of peaceful worship. There was even a loud speaker blaring from the men’s section. Do these protesters believe that God only listens to the prayer of haredi men?

Women of the Wall prayed on both days of Rosh Hodesh Tammuz. On Wednesday, the Torah was brought in and the service went on without the usual planned disruptions. Evidently the “special handling” is reserved for when the Western Wall Heritage foundation expects WoW to be at the Kotel.

The WWHF planned spontaneous demonstrations are done to reinforce the haredi leadership’s notion that they are the only Jews that count in Israel.

This is clear by the rejection of the Abayudaya community as Jews by the Interior minister Aryeh Deri (Shas). This community has been practicing Judaism for over 100 years and was converted by the Conservative movement. This is mostly attributed to racism and the fact that this is a Conservative community. No matter what the reason, this is a total disregard of the Law of Return.

“The Western Wall is the canary in the coal-mine. When women's voices cannot be heard in this most holy of public places, the phenomena spreads to other areas of Israeli society, said WoW board member Rachel Cohen Yeshurun.

‘When women are denied the right to read Torah at the Kotel - simply because they are female - this is a denial of women as literate, thinking adults - and how short a distance it is to ignore their rights in marriage and divorce.

The haredim want to own the holy spaces, marriage, conversion, the definition of who is a Jew, and even who gets to make aliyah to Israel. This power grab has to stop before they completely destroy the Jewish people.

I wrote this blog as I sat watching the service from home, still waylaid by a knee injury. It is hard to see the amount of anger and hatred directed at women that dare to believe that they too can approach God. When you are at the Kotel praying with all the kavana you can muster, you block out the background noise. Seeing the video from home truly shows how obsessed and dangerous the dementors really are.

The last time the WWHF and the Israeli police tried to ban us from the Kotel, it backfired on them and the result was the Sobel decision affirming women’s rights to pray out-loud with tallit, tefilian and a sefer Torah. Why would they try again unless this has become the next Coalition crisis?  For the sake of Israel’s soul, this has to stop.