Short-sighted Kotel Deal

Short-sighted Kotel Deal

A few crucial factual corrections are needed to Michele Chabin’s article (“Prayer Deal Opens Rift Among Jewish Feminists,” Feb. 5). Women’s prayer services at the Kotel [carried out] with three of four of our [Women of the Wall’s] original goals — group prayer, [reciting prayers] aloud and the option of donning tallit and tefillin — have been held regularly, without incident, since the historic ruling of Judge Moshe Sobel in 2013.

The Sobel ruling, based on our historic Supreme Court ruling of 2003, confirmed that, not only is all we wish to do at the Kotel legal, but that, after (then) 25 years of services, it was also in accord with minhag hamakom — the custom of the place. The rabbinic administrator of the Kotel has blocked women from access to a Torah scroll — the fourth of our goals — but it is not true that women’s services have been harassed or subjected to anything like the scenes that went on before the Sobel ruling.

Second: Several of us, myself included, are now suing before the Supreme Court of Israel to enforce the right of Jewish women to read Torah at the Kotel, using Torahs at the site, as Jewish men have been able to do since 1967. Given an Israeli law that forbids discrimination in access to or use of pubic property — and the Kotel (currently, at least) is public space and the Torah scrolls there are public property — our suit is very strong.

So here, too, there are no grounds for saying Robinson’s Arch [a separate area of the Western Wall designated for egalitarian worship services] is needed for full women’s prayer to proceed at the Kotel. Indeed, given these realities, it is strange indeed that this deal for banishing women’s prayer at the Kotel is happening now. Anyone can see that it has nothing to do with furthering the rights of Jewish women and is being pushed for other reasons and by other parties.

What this deal would do, aside from bulldoze the established rights of Jewish women at the national holy place of the Jewish people — is to turn that national holy place into an ultra-Orthodox synagogue, and vastly increase the power of the very establishment that anathematizes all — including Orthodox Jews — whose practice differs from theirs.

This deal is terrible, short-sighted policy and is not the way for other streams of Judaism to attain recognition and rights. This deal has no relevance for us. We will stay at the Kotel. We wish all who wish to pray at Robinson’s Arch well.

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The writer is one of the original founders of Women of the Wall.


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