Haredim & Women of the Wall Share Common Goal

Calling for an end to segregation at our holy places: Cave of the Patriarchs (מערת המכפלה) in Hebron (left) and the Western Wall (הַכֹּתֶל הַמַּעֲרָבִי) in Jerusalem.

— by Dan Loeb [email protected]

Haredim (ultra-Orthodox groups in Israel) have been opposing efforts by the Women of the Wall to allow women to pray at the Western Wall just as men have been able to do since 1967. However, while progressive women have been arrested for praying at the Wall as part of their call to end segregation there, Haredim (including American Orthodox Jews) have been arrested in Hebron as they protested against the segregation imposed on the settlers there:

Members of All That’s Left, a collective of activists committed to ending the occupation, marked the eve of Shabbat Chayei Sarah by staging a protest against segregation in the city of Hebron. During Shabbat Chayei Sarah, thousands of Jews gather in Hebron to celebrate the reading of the biblical passage in which Abraham purchases the Cave of the Patriarchs, a site located in the center of modern-day Hebron.

The activists intended to erect a tent on the city’s segregated Shuhada Street, adorned with signs reading, “Segregation is not my Judaism,” and to hold an alternative study session examining the Chayei Sarah text. The tent was to resemble Abraham’s Tent, which according to traditional Jewish exegesis was open on all four sides so that any passing stranger would know s/he was welcome.

Poet Responds to Jerusalem Municipal WOW Ruling

The Jerusalem District Court ruled in [April] that women praying at the Western Wall with prayer shawls and tefillin does not constitute a violation of “local custom” or a provocation, and therefore, no justification exists for detaining and interrogating women who engage in these practices. [Haaretz] Poet Jennifer Rudick Zunikoff’s response arrives in verse:

Women wearing tefillin and talit at the Western Wall. Photo: Michal Patelle.

Jerusalem Knows My Name

I can pray,
I can dance
While wearing purple and gold
In the shadow of King David’s Tower,
Because this City of Gold
This City of Peace
This Jerusalem, is
My city.
Its stones are smooth from my caress.
Its alleyways
Recognize my footsteps.
Its people
Know my name.
The Shekhina sings from my heart
In a voice soft and strong and round…
I have not forgotten Thee,
O Jerusalem,
I have not forgotten Thee.
My City of Gold,
My City of Peace….
You have kept me, and
You have remembered.
You have remembered me.
Jennifer Rudick Zunikoff is a professional storyteller and teacher. She uses storytelling as an educational tool to inspire exploration of Judaism and spirituality. Her story “Rina and the Exodus”appears in National Jewish Book Award-Winning volume Mitzvah Stories: Seeds for Inspiration and Learning (Reclaiming Judaism Press) http://jenniferstories.com

Sharansky Presents Western Wall Plan to Knesset Committee

— by Joshua Berkman

While Israelis were preparing for Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), marking the unification of the city and renewed Jewish access to the Western Wall, Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky met last Tuesday with the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, where he presented an outline of his plan to create a section for egalitarian prayer in the southern part of the Kotel (Western Wall).

More after the jump.
Mr. Sharansky addressed the committee:

Every Jew in the world has a unique relationship with the Kotel. There is no other place in the world that fulfills such a role in the life, history, and identity of any nation. It is naturally in our interest for every Jew to express his or her own connection as he or she sees fit. Ultimately, the solution will not come through court rulings or legislation, but rather through a broad agreement between all segments of the Jewish people.

Sharansky then laid out the details for an egalitarian prayer area that would be equal in size to the current prayer area, open around the clock, and accessible via a single, shared entrance, along with the current men’s and women’s sections. “Every Jew will enter the Kotel area through a single entryway and will then decide whether to pray in a traditional Orthodox manner or in a non-Orthodox manner,” he said. Sharansky also noted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted the plan in principle.

I had a very impressive meeting with Reform and Conservative leaders, with representatives of the Orthodox Union, of Agudath Israel, of Chabad, of Modern Orthodox organizations, in which all said they would be willing to accept this solution.

With regards to implementation of the plan, Sharansky noted that certain archaeological elements would have to be resolved, but suggested that construction could begin within one month, an initial stage could be completed within 10 months, and the entire plan could be actualized within two years. The government has insisted on covering all costs, he said.

Members of Knesset from across the political spectrum hailed Sharansky’s plan, promising support for its implementation. Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, who serves as Rabbi of the Western Wall and of the Holy Sites of Israel, acknowledged that he has some reservations about the plan, but said that the fact that no one is entirely satisfied by it could be an indication that it is the correct solution. Rabbi Gilad Kariv of the Reform Movement, Rabbi Andrew Sacks of the Conservative Movement, and Anat Hoffman of Women of the Wall all expressed support for Mr. Sharansky’s efforts.

Committee Chairwoman MK Dr. Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) summarized the discussion by reminding those in attendance that “we must never forget the Kotel’s place in the heart of the Jewish people,” and by telling Mr. Sharansky that “we are here for you and will extend any and all assistance in bringing your plan to fruition.”

“I share both the hopes and the concerns expressed today,” Sharansky concluded.

If we wish to reach a significant compromise, we will have to take unconventional steps. We must listen to one another and treat one another with respect, otherwise none of this will be possible.