Last Licks

The clock is ticking to the August 31 deadline, when the supreme court will finally hear the combined court cases about the implementation of the Kotel plan and the ban on women being able to read Torah at the Kotel; something that we thought was decided by the Sobel ruling years ago. But in Israel, with this coalition nothing is ever a done deal. The losing side always wants to get in last licks.

The government’s reasoning was that a new government decision to not implement the Kotel decision made the court case un-necessary. So was a decision made based on the government’s response? No! The rabbinate decided that the attorney general did not represent them and they asked for time to prepare their own response.

On August 22, the rabbinate filed a 167 page brief alleging that the state of Israel had no jurisdiction to rule on the issue. They claimed authority because the British mandate allowed religious leaders to make religious decisions. I have a news flash: the British Mandate ended when Israel became a state and the court case is about the violation of civil rights and not necessarily tied to religion.

With the 31st looming, you would think that the Western Wall Heritage Society AKA Rabbi Rabinowitz’s goon squad would try to maintain some semblance of religious decorum at the Kotel. That he would call off his women and Taliban girl’s disruptions of any and all prayer at the Kotel and that he would respect the January court decision that said women could not be subjected to invasive body searches when coming to pray at the Kotel. Both of these were violated on Rosh Hodesh Elul.

Four women, two are Americans, were part of a group of rabbinical, cantorial and education students from Hebrew Union College were taken by security and ordered to raise their shirts and skirts in an attempt to see if they were smuggling in a Torah scroll wrapped around their bodies. They were not. But the religious media were quick to decide that women were smuggling in cut up Torah Klafs under their clothing and whistles in their private parts and reported accordingly leading to the usual calls to ban Women of the Wall from the Kotel and the usual threats of violence.

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Anat Hoffman the Chair of WoW said, “The rabbi should stop thinking about what is under our clothes, but instead what is in our heads and hearts, which is that we are people who have the same rights as men; and how he denies us the rights to use any of the public scrolls or to bring our own Torah in.

The groups of young girls who wrap themselves in scarfs Taliban style are growing larger and decidedly more virulent and violent every month. Some scream themselves into hysteria, some blow shrill whistles that are considered assault weapons while covering their faces so that the police cannot recognize them. One ran into our group on the attack and she was stopped by two security officers who carried her kicking and whistle blowing out of the women’s section. Many of the worshippers in the Women’s section begged them to stop so that they could pray. But trying to block our prayer is so much more important than preserving a holy place for everyone to pray.

Another one of these girls physically assaulted Rabbi Susan Silverman in the plaza as she spoke to reporters. It is hard to decide if these girls believe they are on some holy mission or if this is just an opportunity for frum girls to go really rogue.

At the end of WoW’s monthly Rosh Hodesh Tefilla service (not a protest as some newspapers report) we sang Hatikva and blew Shofarot. Rabinowitz said that our shofar blows were not the call for repentance that are sounded in Elul but a battle cry. It is the ninth inning and he is throwing everything he has against WoW, against women, against non-Haredi worshipers and against the State of Israel (his employer). Isn’t it time for this game to end?