‘Mom, I also want a bat mitzva at the Kotel’

(Left) Male haredi worshipers heckle members of Women of the Wall during a Rosh Hodesh service next to the Western Wall Plaza in July 2013. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
(Left) Male haredi worshipers heckle members of Women of the Wall during a Rosh Hodesh service next to the Western Wall Plaza in July 2013.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
IT WAS in the final ne’ila prayer of Yom Kippur when the idea of a davka moment dawned on me.
I realized that Jews all over the world were praying for an opening of the gates at the exact moment when the gates were being locked. As the doors slowly close, we ask for them to be opened.
Choosing this tense moment to pray for the opening of the gates is an odd choice – a davka choice.
Davka is a Hebrew word that has no direct English translation. It means “exactly” but with an edge, with drama and explicit purpose.
Davka also has a subversive, in-your-face connotation.
It is easily understood when used in a sentence: “Women of the Wall want to read Torah at the Western Wall davka because it upsets the ultra-Orthodox.” Or, “These women get their kicks out of doing davka – if they really cared about Judaism or Israel they would not make waves.”
So why do Jews ask for an opening davka at the moment of closing? Because there is no better time and no better place to do so than the ne’ila prayer at the final moments of Yom Kippur in a sacred space filled with Jews as evening falls.
Similarly, Women of the Wall are following in the footsteps of our people everywhere and the State of Israel in standing up for our rights at the time and place that are most effective. We demand the right to pray out loud davka at the Western Wall as a group, to read Torah in celebration, to wear our “Women of the Wall” tallit (and other tallitot as well), to lay tefillin , to blow shofar , to dance together and to feel that we are welcome and precious at the holy site.
Our group has broken many barriers in the course of a 26-year struggle. We broke the barrier between Jewish streams as we belong to all of them. We ignore the distance between Israeli women and Diaspora women as we work together toward reaching our goal. We were able to obliterate the ‘partition’ between men and women as many men are “honorary Women of the Wall,” supporting, encouraging and helping our group move forward.
Women of the Wall has succeeded in moving from the fringes of the Jewish agenda to becoming a topic of concern for the prime minister of Israel, many cabinet ministers and the chairman of the Jewish Agency.
Recently Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited the leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel and abroad, the leaders of the Jewish Federations of North America and leaders of Women of the Wall for an open discussion about the Kotel. It was clear at this meeting that Netanyahu wished to find a solution at the Wall that would allow every visitor to feel at home.
When we pointed out that one main concern was the lack of a physical plan for the future egalitarian plaza alongside the ultra-Orthodox plaza that exists today, he suggested we approach Michael Arad, the internationally acclaimed designer of the World Trade Center Memorial in New York City.
With a powerful coalition numbering millions of Jews, we feel that Women of the Wall has moved from the back of the bus to the top of the agenda. However, until a solution for the egalitarian plaza is found, approved, financed and satisfactorily implemented, we will continue to pray in the women’s section of the Kotel. Next Rosh Hodesh, despite a ruling by the rab - bi of the Western Wall barring us from bringing a Torah into the women’s section or using any of the hundred Torah scrolls available for public use, we will be reading Torah in the women’s section.
From mid-October, Jerusalem buses will be adorned with ads for our new campaign for bat mitzva ceremonies at the Kotel.
The ads feature the photo of four Israeli bat mitzva-aged girls with the Torah and will read, “Mom, I also want a bat mitzva at the Kotel” and “ v’zot hatorah : Now it is my turn.”
The culmination of this campaign will be a women’s Torah reading at the Kotel on October 24 at 7:00 a.m. For those of us who have persisted with this struggle for over a decade, it will be a davka moment filled with tears of joy.