Feminists and ultra-Orthodox rabbis clash at the Western Wall

Former dissident Natan Sharansky has been appointed to broker a compromise around prayer at the Jewish holy site

Topics: Religion, Judaism, Israel, orthodoxy, Conservatism, ,

Feminists and ultra-Orthodox rabbis clash at the Western Wall (Credit: AP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appointed former dissident Natan Sharansky to broker a compromise between Jewish women who want to pray at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, and the ultra-Orthodox men who have called their presence an “abomination.”

The feminist group Women of the Wall has been praying at the square for decades, singing aloud, reading from the Torah and wearing prayer shawls. But the Jewish holy site is managed by Orthodox rabbis, who maintain the Wall according to a strict interpretation of Jewish law. These rabbis, in addition to police regulations, have significantly restricted women’s ability to pray at the Wall.

As a result, the Women of the Wall have clashed with Israeli police, been forcibly removed from the square, taken in for questioning and even arrested — just for expressing their faith.

Both groups have said the ban on women singing and reading from the Torah at the Wall threatens to distance American Jews from Israel, according to the Daily Beast.

For weeks now, Sharansky has been meeting with rabbis, lawyers and activists from both sides to try to reach a compromise. But a compromise may not come easily, or last for long.

The Women of the Wall have tried to accommodate ultra-Orthodox restrictions, with limited success, in the past. As reported by Haartez:

Over the years, the Women of the Wall worked out various arrangements that enabled them to conduct their services; for instance, for a long time they were allowed to wear tallitot so long as they did not look like the traditional black-and-white prayer shawl. This led to the development of a colorful women’s tallit that became a symbol of the Women of the Wall.

Later, the police stiffened the rules and ordered the women to wear the tallit as a scarf around their necks and not to drape it across their shoulders in the traditional fashion… Little by little, these orders seem to have metaphorically cut away at the women’s tallit, with the intention of making it disappear.



“If the idea is how to satisfy everybody in the world, there’s no way to do it … Every Jew in the world has to feel that they are connected to Israel and that the Kotel [the Western Wall] is the symbol of this connection to the Jewish people,” Sharansky said of the pending compromise.

Sharanksy hasn’t revealed what his final proposal for Netanyahu will entail, but as Katie J.M. Baker at Jezebel writes, “Tradition is tradition — but sexism is also sexism.” If the Western Wall is really meant to belong to all Jews, the compromise will have to find a way for Jewish women to pray freely, just like everyone else.

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 17
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    John Stanmeyer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

    Lu Guang

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

    Carolyn Cole/LATimes

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

    Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

    Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

    Garth Lentz

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

    Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

    Stephanie Sinclair

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

    Mike Hedge

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

    Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

    Daniel Dancer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

    Peter Essick

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

    Daniel Beltra

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

    Ian Wylie

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Slide 13

    Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

    R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>