May 21: Prayer prerogatives

Democracies flourish under the rule of law. The courts have rendered the verdict. No further delay is necessary. Act on it.

Letters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Letters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Prayer prerogatives
Sir, – Douglas Bloomfield, (“Whose Israel is this?” Washington Watch, Comment and Features, May 19), used the disgraceful behavior of a few men toward the Women of the Wall as the jumping-off point for a broad attack on religious life in Israel. However, even his diatribe, he did not say what the accompanying photo and caption indicated, namely that the young haredi women who came to the Kotel to pray were violent and needed to be held back by police. If the Kotel is to be open to all, it certainly should be open to young women who pray everyday, not just when the cameras are present.


Sir, – Yossi Klein Halevi, after mildly chastising the rioting haredi “youths” and Women For the Wall, puts the onus on the Women of the Wall to prevent further violence (“Time to end the disgrace at the Wall,” iEngage, Observations, May 17).
He calls the judgment of the court “ill-timed.” In what respect? The court heard the evidence, reviewed it, and made a decision. That’s the task they are mandated to do.
He says the WoW should “suspend” their activities until the plan of Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky is adopted. If the Knesset acts with their usual speed, the grandchildren of the WoW might gain the benefit of the court’s decision. After all, the Knesset hasn’t even appointed the usual five committees necessary to examine the Sharansky plan.
Democracies flourish under the rule of law. The courts have rendered the verdict. No further delay is necessary. Act on it.
Sir, – In your eagerness to to show support for the Women of the Wall and Judge Sobel’s ruling that they have the right to pray at the Kotel with prayer shawls and tefillin, you began your May 13 editorial “Compromise and prayer” with the following triumphant declaration: “Friday, May 10, Rosh Hodesh Sivan, will go down in history as a major victory for those who value freedom of religious expression in Israel.”
I and thousands upon thousands of others like me do not see the matter quite the same way. For us, the entire issue has nothing at all to do with freedom of religious expression.
These women were never prevented from opening prayer halls, synagogues or temples that espouse and promote their religious philosophy. Not satisfied with that, they decided to force themselves and their heterodox practices upon those whom they knew would be offended and could be counted on to resist – providing them with the PR they were seeking.
The potential effect of Judge Sobel’s ruling is to have the state unilaterally abolish freedom of religious expression for the countless thousands of Jews who come daily to the Kotel to pray in the time-honored tradition of Jews through the ages. The secular court has no role to play in establishing the validity of one order of religious service or another.
Above all, it is important to face the facts honestly. The Women of the Wall and the supporters of Sobel’s ruling to permit so-called pluralistic Jewish practices at the Kotel do not constitute a community drawn together by strong faith commitments.
Rather, it is a community of political interests and nefarious objectives that mocks the piety of the overwhelming number of Jews who truly sense the holiness of the Kotel.
Sir, – It was refreshing reading the point of view of the thousands of women that disagreed with the Women of the Wall movement who insist on praying monthly at the Western Wall with tallit and tefillin and loud services (“The other Women of the Wall,” Comment and Features, May 14).
The reason for the status quo was because the Western Wall is at the holiest site of Judaism and as such, to enable maximum access, the universally kosher standard of separate men and women sections with out-loud women’s payers, due to the Orthodox issue of kol isha, was enacted. If the Women of the Wall truly wish to pray in tallit and tefillin because they are very religiously inspired, apparently more than thousands of haredi women, then one wonders if they also keep Shabbat and pray at other times as well. Because if not then their behavior would appear merely to be an act of anti-religious protest at Judaism’s holiest site and as such in the Jewish state should be blocked.
New York
Sir, – There are dozens of shuls, synagogues, designated and set aside places to pray all over Jerusalem and the rest of the country. It is not incumbent upon any worshiper, in fact, to pray in any of them.
It is time for this unseemly and demeaning haggle over the Western Wall to come to an end.
The outer wall of the long-gone Temple should have its status changed to either historical site or one of the Wonders of the World. It can be a place to visit by tourists and residents alike, but with limited access. These visitors can be allowed in with proper identification, on a limited basis, but not for prayers or bar mitzvot, as they have abused those privileges up to now and made a circus of the place.
Since no one can change the mindset of any of the protagonists, none of them should have access to the wall as they now do. God does not care how or where we pray to him.



Inaccurate accusation
Sir, – “British-funded J’lem institute slammed for backing BDS” (May 16) is fictional. Unlike Jonny Paul and Benjamin Weinthal, the authors of the article, I attended Suzanne Morrison’s talk at the Kenyon Institute on March 6. It was a legitimate (and interesting) academic presentation, based on the speaker’s doctoral dissertation-in-the-making.
Morrison focused on “The Emergence of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement” (which was the title of her talk), and offered no personal opinion regarding the BDS movement. The claim that she or the Kenyon Institute supported the BDS movement is utterly untrue.
Equally untrue is the claim that the Kenyon Institute has been “slammed” for hosting Morrison’s talk. Only the authors of The Jerusalem Post article, who obviously consider any mention of the BDS movement as an anti- Israel expression, have attempted to censure legitimate academic discourse. Such an attempt deserves condemnation.


University of Oxford

The writer is a visiting research fellow at the Kenyon Institute
Sir, – I read with dismay your piece entitled, “British-funded J’lem institute slammed for backing BDS.” I attended the lecture which lies at the heart of the grossly inaccurate accusations made in the article. The talk presented an academic paper entitled, “The emergence of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement,” based on research for a PhD at the London School of Economics. The presentation concerned itself with a history of the BDS movement and an analysis of its origins. Not a single word in endorsement of the movement was uttered either by the guest speaker or by representatives of the Kenyon Institute.
Either the authors of the piece are incapable of distinguishing between academic inquiry and political campaigning, or they have willfully distorted the truth in a disgraceful attempt to stifle legitimate academic discussion of these issues. In either case, reporting of this kind deserves our condemnation and I expect the Post to issue a thorough retraction of the falsehoods contained in the article.



The writer is a PhD candidate at the University of London