by Arianna A., Spring 2014 Student
Sometimes life goes full circle and there is nothing more thrilling or wonderful. About a week ago, EIE had the honor of joining the esteemed Women of the Wall for a service and prayer reading at the Kotel. Whether or not you are a spiritual person, the Kotel is inexplicably powerful place, surrounded by those who who are weeping, davening, praying, reviving history, and gathered we stood amidst an even more powerful coalition. Women who give meaning to the words activism, change, persistence, surrounded us in dulcet chorus, displaying in real time not only what they worked tirelessly to achieve, but that those activist stories about pioneers and reformists, happen and are still relatable and possible.
Women of the Wall is a 25 year old organization that fights continuously for the rights of women to exhibit their Judaism at the holiest physical remnant for Jews. As according to orthodox tradition, the wall is split into gender sectioning, the men’s side not only being significantly larger, but as a whole, more usable. For years, women we restricted from wearing teffilin (prayer shawls), from reading Torah aloud, from openly expressing their Jewish tradition. Women who defied this were not only cuffed and persecuted, but spit on, yelled at derogatory comments, pushed around, and thrown things at, the worst being dirty diapers. One of the heads of the organization, Anat Hoffman, who, by the way, is not only a major inspiration and a fireball, but the topic of my admission essay for this program, radiates energy of never ending pursuit of her passions and is singly a star for her efforts. The media that has circulated of her and her colleagues being detained, forced out, discriminated against, are evidence of their widely significant work. Obviously though, the focus shouldn’t be only on the hoops they had to jump through, but how much has been effectively changed due to the WoW, such as allowing teffilin with prayer, police security for these women, and so SO much more. (Visit http://womenofthewall.org.il/about/history/ for more info)
Being among WoW is impactful, standing with those who believe so strongly in their cause leaves you with remnants of empowerment. Onlookers do not fully accept what they see, they observe curiously because they’re witnessing blatant change. It’s makes you want to be a part of this beautiful coalition, standing up for everyone including yourself.
The Women of the Wall continue to be a part of my drive to better the lives of people who are undermined or strive for what they need or want. Much is owed to these women who laugh at the threats so they may be the people they want to be and live the lives they want to be able to live. Thank you, WoW, for being a symbol for women everywhere to speak out on gender equality. You are meant for the history books.
Originally posted on Arianna’s blog, Found in Translation.