Historic Day at the Kotel
Last Friday was a historic day at the Western Wall. It was the first test of Judge Sobel’s ruling allowing women to pray at the Western Wall in a manner they see fit without police harassment. Despite strong opposition the ruling held and hundreds of women prayed with their tallitot, tefillin, and in a strong full voice. The women who came out that day should be commended for their courage.
We entered the plaza to the sounds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox men screaming insults and throwing garbage. The difference this week was that instead of the police dragging women off in handcuffs they made a barrier of blue uniforms holding back a sea of men trying to fall upon us. The angry crowd could not drown out our songs or joy at this victory.
Friday was an important step forwards in the process of making the Western Wall an inclusive home for all Jews. The court ruling, along with the Sharansky plan to create a third and equal section of the Western Wall for egalitarian prayer, is the correct formula for respecting the rights and feelings of all Jews. As I wrote last week, this process needs the support of us all.
A few thousand screaming Haredi Jews do not represent the majority view on this issue anymore. A week before this Friday’s Rosh Chodesh service, a poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute showed that, for the first time, a majority of Israelis support women’s right to pray at the Kotel as they see fit. We are on the side of the law and of Israeli, and world opinion. A recent Yediot Ahronot survey (Israel’s largest daily newspaper) showed Women of the Wall enjoy over 67% support from the Israeli public.
The new Diaspora and Religious Services Minister, Naftali Bennett from the Bayit haYehudi party, began his tenure with a promise of new politics. In spite of this promise he is now planning to impose more regulations against women praying at the Wall. He is threatening unilateral actions that would all but stop the Sharanksy process and reverse the Sobel ruling.
Minster Bennett thinks he can just turn the clock backwards, but we need to show him that it will not work. The majority of world Jewry will not accept the old status quo. Together we can ensure equality at the Kotel.
Image courtesy of Miriam Alster/FLASH90.