In the month of Elul, Jews are supposed to looking inward, taking stock in who we are and what we have to do to prepare ourselves for the High Holidays. This includes doing teshuvah (repentance), and asking for forgiveness for the people we have harmed. We all have some very serious work to do. At least, that is what I have always been taught.
But some people do not always play by the rules. In Israeli politics, some people believe that the end justifies any means. This seems especially true of the ultra-Orthodox religious parties. They play by Haredi Rules.
The first and most important rule is that of the status quo. Everything regarding religion and the state must continue the way it was. The definition of the way it was could mean the status quo of last year, last month, or last week and not necessarily the way it was in the historic status quo agreement of 1947.
The second rule is that anything can be twisted and spinned into belonging to the status quo rule.
The third rule is that any action that maintains the status quo is completely acceptable, even if it breaks Halacha or the law of the land.The violence perpetrated against Women of the Wall by ultra-Orthodox women and young men during Rosh Hodesh Elul, when we are supposed be cleaning up our acts does not violate Haredi Rules.That’s because any prayer that is different from the way they pray is breaking the status quo.Where do the rest of us Jews fit in. That’s easy. According to Haredi Rules, we don’t. A prime example is the Mandelblit Kotel agreement, that was painstakingly negotiated and approved by the Knesset in January and it was never implemented. It is important to note that the deal was negotiated by Avichai Mandelblit who was the cabinet secretary, Natan Sharansky, the head of the Jewish Agency, and representatives of the Conservative and Reform movements in Israel and the Diaspora, Women of the wall, the North American Federations, and the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.
The implementation of this historic agreement was halted because the religious parties demanded that the government play by Haredi Rules or they would pull out of the coalition. And just like preserving the status quo is rule number one for the religious parties, preserving the coalition and staying in power appears to be Prime Minister Netanyahu’s number one rule too.
With the deal on hold, the treatment of women and liberal Jews at the Kotel has become more and more oppressive. There are new restrictions levied by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation and more violence every month.
In an attempt to break the impasse, progressive voices in Israel including many of the groups who were part of the negotiations, requested that the Supreme Court reopen a petition that was filed against the Western Wall Heritage Foundation (that rules the Kotel) and the prime minister’s office that was originally filed in 2013.
The petition was originally filed to demand that the Western Wall Heritage Foundation include women and representatives of the liberal movements on their leadership board. The WWHF operates under the umbrella of the prime minister’s office and receives its funding from the government.
On Monday, the court sparked a ray of light at the end of the long, long tunnel, by rebuking the government for ignoring the Kotel agreement. According to a statement from Women of the Wall: “Justice Elyakim Rubinstein said that the Wall, as it is currently managed, represents not the will of the majority in Israel but a small minority of the population.”
Justice Miriam Naor said, “Enough is enough” and accused the government of foot dragging.
The judges asked the petitioners to resubmit the petition to put the Kotel deal at the center.
Now, there is hope that there will be a separation of religion and state and that the end of Haredi Rules will soon be here.