Really, how am I supposed to present Judaism and the Jewish people as unlike the enemy in, among other things, their treatment of women, when women keep getting arrested for wearing prayer shawls at Jerusalem’s Western Wall?
Most recently, on the 6th day of Hanukkah this year, four women were arrested at the wall; Judaism’s holiest site.
One of those arrested is a rabbi from New Jersey, two others are 18-year-olds from the UK, and one is a member of the group, Women of the Wall.
All they were doing, according to reports, was trying to pray, though it’s unlikely in my opinion, that that’s all they were trying to do. I suspect they were also trying to make a point, that being, since, evidently, it needs to be articulated despite its self-evident nature, that women are equal human beings, on earth and in the eyes of G-d.
And the Western Wall is the holiest site in Judaism for women as well as men.
Some Jewish groups are calling on authorities to create a third section at the wall, besides the one strictly for men and the one strictly for women – one “in which men and women can pray together, while respecting the rights of those who choose to pray in separate sections.”
I’m not sure this will cure the baseline issue, which seems to be that someone has interpreted something in the Torah to mean that women can’t pray out loud in a group or wear the prayer shawl. I have had it explained to me that the message really is less about forbidding these things to women than it is about demanding them of men.
Whatever it is, Jews, for a change, are not all on the same page on this.
A message from the worldwide Zionist Jewish women’s group, Hadassah, notes the irony in that, “as Jews around the world celebrate(d) the victory of spirit over forced assimilation (during Hanukkah), that Jews who want to pray have their rights denied by an ultra-orthodox hegemony.”
Hadassah says it calls upon the state if Israel “to heed its own Supreme Court and find a resolution. Until that happens, Israel still fails to live up to the ideals upon which it was founded, as a haven for Jews everywhere.”
Of course, a woman’s lot in Israel is still a far cry better than for those women unfortunate enough to have been born in Muslim countries. Nevertheless, there’s not that much mileage between forcing a woman to wear a burqa or Hijab and forbidding her to wear a tallit.
It is still discrimination based on gender.
There are, again in my opinion, several areas of Jewish law or tradition that are in serious need of reevaluation and updating. I believe this can be done, taking medical, technological and societal advances into account, without sacrificing the fundamental goodness and rightness of Judaism.
I tend to agree with the Hadassah women when they say, “We support the efforts of the Women of the Wall and our hearts, and our support, go out to those who stood up in the face of injustice for the sake of the greater Jewish community.”
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