In honor of the new Jewish month of Kislev, I joined my mom at Women of the Wall this morning. Women of the Wall is an organization that has existed for more than twenty years and meets monthly on Rosh Hodesh, the start of each Jewish month. Traditionally, Rosh Hodesh has been a time for women to gather to celebrate their womanhood around the lunar cycle (Hello Red Tent). WOW was founded in reaction to the present reality of the Western Wall in Jerusalem — the women’s section is significantly smaller than the men’s and there is not a place for women to sing or read the Torah out loud, unlike the men’s side. At their monthly meetings, WOW members and various guests gather in the back of the women’s section and pray in a huddle. Women will put on their tallitot, their prayer shawls, and a few even dare to wear kippot.

I’ve been to WOW before. It’s always a moving experience for me. I do not feel spiritually or religiously connected to the Wall because I see it as a symbol of how the conservative right dominates religion and politics in Israel; when I’m with WOW, though, I see my presence as part of a continued struggle that fights for egalitarianism in Jewish, Israeli society. I have every right to be a fully participatory member of the Jewish community. Usually, WOW does the beginning of morning prayers, called shaharit, and the special Rosh Hodesh prayers, called Hallel, at the Wall, and then the group moves to another area at the Southern Wall to read Torah and finish up. This is because by the time we reach Hallel, we have usually caused a commotion. Other women will start yelling at us to be quiet, how what we’re doing is disrespectful, and that we’re bothering the men on the other side. Today, though, things were different.

We prayed Hallel and no one had said anything. There weren’t any old ladies who were telling us to quiet down; no police officers had come by to tell us to move. It was the loudest I had ever heard this group of women. We finished hallel with barely a talking-to and then we reached the Torah service. Given that no one was paying us any attention, there was a quick conversation amongst the board members: should we dare to read the Torah here? After a few minutes, they all agreed to it.

As we unrolled the Torah, the people who patrol the Wall area came over and started to bother us. It’s still unclear to me who they are exactly — they go by the name “Guards of the Western Wall.” Are they appointed by the state or have they taken this ‘holy’ duty upon themselves? Because they were being so aggressive and we were doing something that is considered provocative, we decided to move as we had originally planned to the Southern Wall. At that point, another so-called security guard came up and started harassing one of the members, Nofrat Frenkel. He asked why she was wearing a tallit, to which she responded, “It’s a mitzvah. Where’s yours?” I guess that was the wrong thing to say because at that point, he asked for her identification. He started to walk away with it, so she followed him (still holding the Torah, by the way), and we followed her – about forty women running behind this pseudo-police officer. Nofrat was subsequently taken in for questioning and then arrested. She was held for about two hours in the jail in the Old City. We waited outside, singing and calling every potential connection to news reporters that we had. When she triumphantly emerged, she was shaking. Needless to say, the event was beyond upsetting. I found myself missing the simple yelling of days of yore. My mom and I had to spend a few hours engaging in some good old retail therapy to feel better.

It was the first time that a woman had ever been arrested for wearing a tallit. What does it mean when a Jewish state doesn’t let Jews practice their religion in the way that they want to? (Also, since I’m sure someone will bring it up — I’m well aware that there are a plethora of issues in Israel regarding civil rights, but this post is not about that.) If Israel is in theory a democratic society, how does the restriction of religious practice fit into that? Women — and everyone — should have the right to practice any sort of religion in any way that they want. Women of the Wall is not about equal rights because the founders consider themselves to be Orthodox Jews; it is, however, about equal access. As a woman, I want the right to step forward and claim that I have a religious space at the Western Wall, too. Right now, sadly, I’m not sure that I can even do that.

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  • Thanks for the report and this amazing and disturbing story.

    It’s easy for me to say, because I’m not there and don’t have to deal with the consequences, but your group should make it a point to go back and do this again. As soon as you can! This time, call the media first.

    As for your opponents there, it’s not just the pseudo-cops. The powers that be will send out some lunatics to yell and scream at you, but you have the same right to the torah that they do. In fact, considering that I get accosted for donations every time I go there, I would say the people who are being offensive are those who would keep you out, not your group.

  • Thanks so much for sharing. Disgusting and horrible and totally not what the people who built the State of Israel envisioned, I’m sure. Kol hakavod lachem for sticking up to what you know to be a blatant wrong.

  • I am too outraged. Having been the on the blunt end of Israeli Police thuggery before, well, all I can do is commiserate.

    Thank you for the eyewitness accounts.

    No, Israel is not perfect. But it is not a theocracy, its trying to balance the many diverse populations and strongly held convictions. It is not every other country in the entire region that locks up people they don’t like, and sentence them to death.

    Israel is a Democracy, an imperfect one, as all Democracies, but a Democracy all the same.

  • “we have usually caused a commotion. Other women will start yelling at us to be quiet, how what we’re doing is disrespectful, and that we’re bothering the men on the other side”

    So you admit that you go to a religious holy site and intentionally cause disruption? And how is this not anti-semitism?

    • Blessings, let’s see if we get your logic here. If they go to a holy site and accept the subservient, inferior role that others have given them, then these women are acting properly and acceptably and you think that arrangement is valid and fair even if it is spiritually empty and upsetting for them. If, however, they go there and attempt to have a fulfilling service JUST LIKE THE MEN ARE HAVING, then that’s disruptive and you find that reprehensible. Great logic! It resembles, “only men can study torah and become rabbis, therefore only men can be authorities on the torah.”

      We’ll ignore the stupid comment about anti-Semitism since, well, it’s really stupid.

      I have a feeling you’re one of the happy users of those buses where they stick the women in the back.

  • This is a difficult issue, to say the least. Court rulings have attempted to strike a fair balance by allowing egalitarian minyans to pray at Robinson’s arch or the Southern Wall – which is still part of the Kotel. The notion of incorporating egalitarianism into Jewish ritual is a relatively new one. How do you balance that out with those who do not subscribe to that value? Many of the men praying at the Kotel are forbidden from hearing “kol isha,” a woman’s voice in song. If the WOW service got loud, the men would literally have to get out of earshot till the women were done. Now to be clear, I personally have no issue with kol isha. But how do you balance the rights of all the individuals involved? I think the court rulings attempted to do that though if anyone has a better idea, I am all ears.

    That having been said, it’s still unclear why Nofrat Frenkel was detained. Was it for wearing a tallit? Holding a Torah? Surely, given what was going on, the issue could have been peacefully resolved without recourse to such extreme measures. Perhaps it behooves the municipality of Jerusalem to offer the Kotel guards some sensitivity training as well as a clear indication of what the law is in regards to these issues. Nofrat has now been barred from entering the Kotel area for 2 weeks. Was that necessary? All indications are that she was not trying to be provocative and that the WOW were in the process of leaving so as not to cause undue disturbance. This did not have to happen. It shouldn’t have happened. I hope the people involved are taking active measures to prevent this from happening in the future.

  • ck asks:

    “how do you balance the rights of all the individuals involved?”

    Different times for different groups.

    Simple.

    And fire the person who arrested her; demote his supervisor who kept up the farce.

  • Just a few important comments and corrections. The “guardians of the Western Wall” who initially confronted the group have no real authority at the Wall, but the one who detained/arrested Nofrat is a very real police officer, and the case is not closed.

    The Women of the Wall meet every month on Rosh Hodesh at the Wall, and have been praying together as a multi-denominational group for 21 years. http://womenofthewall.org.il/

    There were many news articles written about this incident, most of which are listed here: http://www.irac.org/news.aspx

  • The Middle: What’s wrong with Robinson’s Arch? And how many different groups should we accommodate at the touristy kotel? I call it the touristy kotel because its perceived specialness is not based on anything other than its common usage in popular depictions of the kotel. That’s it. Also since we’re being all egalitarian and everything, I think it’s about time they allowed mixed or any minyans on the temple mount. Learned Rabbis have already determined what areas represent the kodesh kedoshim and what areas Jews may enter. If the Touristy Kotel is to have egalitarianism forced upon it then so too should the Temple Mount. No?

    Sadly TM, your perception of simplicity belies the reality of actual worship at the kotel.

    What’s really interesting is that the area of the wall closest to the entrance to the actual temple is underground and part of the tunnel tour by the touristy kotel. I’ve seen men and women engaged in meditative prayer there often. Just a thought.

  • To quote myself (a favorite activity of mine) in the Headlines post:

    I actually agree with you. Not only do I agree, but I find Robinson’s Arch a much more beautiful area than the main square. For that reason, I say give the yucky part to these nefarious women and send the men down to Robinson’s Arch. 😉

    And please check your email.

  • The most telling sentence of this narcissistic rant:

    I do not feel spiritually or religiously connected to the Wall because I see it as a symbol of how the conservative right dominates religion and politics in Israel; when I’m with WOW, though, I see my presence as part of a continued struggle that fights for egalitarianism in Jewish, Israeli society.

    Translation: I came to the wall to impose my ADMITTEDLY POLITICAL agenda on the regulars – for whom this IS a sacred religious site, and not just “a matter of access” or periodical street-theater.

    So when Jack and others write:

    Blessings- Antisemitism? C’mon.

    The poster herself has made it clear that it’s not about prayer – but about making a scene, and imposing a minority view on others.

    This is the old “my way or the highway” liberal pseudo-tolerance, wrapped up in clucking self-righteous umbrage.

    Sorry – the vast majority of men AND WOMEN who regularly attend the Kotel – and pray at it – don’t agree with these women’s views.

    A compromise was worked out – one which Middle and others who know the site agree is a beautiful location.

    These grrrrrls refuse that – because they seek to provoke.

    Their plaintive mewlings about “equality” cloak a desire to impose their will on The Rest of Us.

    Deflating more self-lionizing tripe:

    It was the first time that a woman had ever been arrested for wearing a tallit.

    She was arrested for provoking unrest in an already tense and security-conscious public space, and for sassing a police officer.

    What does it mean when a Jewish state doesn’t let Jews practice their religion in the way that they want to?

    It means that Judaism already has content, already has established norms of practice – that you can’t make things up on your own.

    And you certainly can’t impose your innovations on the mainstream.

    And the most disingenuous part:

    Women of the Wall is not about equal rights because the founders consider themselves to be Orthodox Jews; it is, however, about equal access. As a woman, I want the right to step forward and claim that I have a religious space at the Western Wall, too.

    The poster’s own words reveal that this IS a political fight, about highly politicized notions of “equality” – which is why the provocations continue after several venues for female “access” to “religious space” has been provided… for those who really do just want to pray, rather than provoke.

  • Just for the record, she wasn’t arrested. She was detained for questioning and released. No charges were pressed. The reason for her detention were her alleged violation of a court ruling that all sides have been adhering to demarcating very clearly acceptable behavior and worship at the Kotel and Kotel plaza, meant to as much as possible secure and protect the rights of all individuals involved. But since she wasn’t charged with anything, this is mostly a non-event, though being in police custody, even for an hour, is a traumatic occurance for which Nofrat Frenkel has my deepest sympathies.

    As for TM’s notion that the vast bulk of regular users of the Touristy Kotel use Robinson’s arch instead, while the touristy Kotel be used for egalitarian minyans, well, all I can say is that when the vast majority of Kotel worshippers are of the egalitarian persuasion, then I have no problem making the switch. None at all. Feel free to quote me on that.

    As for Ben David’s comments, I (obviously) know the poster. She came with her Mom on a religiously significant day to daven with other women. I do not doubt that her intentions were absolutely valid.

    Also keep in mind that all this took place in the plaza.

  • ck: “Many of the men praying at the Kotel are forbidden from hearing “kol isha,” a woman’s voice in song. If the WOW service got loud, the men would literally have to get out of earshot till the women were done.”
    A group of women’s voices is halakhically NOT kol isha -it has to be a single woman’s voice, and it needs to be a woman singing – women praying are not women singing in a sexually provocative manner (which is what the halakha is – if a man is trying to say sh’ma he should not be sexually aroused by a woman singing. That is clearly not what was going on here).

    • You are pretty much correct. There are of course different interpretations regarding, say, kriyat torah by one woman, but overall, you are right and I stand corrected. But lets not oversimplify things too much. There are all sorts of issues involved and if you want to show sensitivity to the lowest common denominator so to speak, you need to talk to a competent religious authority of said “lowest common denominator.” For instance, many Chareidim believe that it is forbidden for women to sing Shabbat zemirot in mixed company. Others say you can’t listen to a woman singing on the radio if you are acquainted with her or even if you’ve seen a picture of her. this applies even if the singer is dead. What about a woman singing to her husband while she’s in niddah? Some say forbidden, others say it’s allowed but you will be blessed if you refrain from such activity. Ridiculous, right? Perhaps, but it shows how complicated the issue can be.

  • Kudos to spawnof6 for posting this here — and what a shame that so many Jewlicious commentors defend the orthodox bullying.

    The poster herself has made it clear that it’s not about prayer – but about making a scene, and imposing a minority view on others.

    Sorry – the vast majority of men AND WOMEN who regularly attend the Kotel – and pray at it – don’t agree with these women’s views.

    Which majority and minority here? The vast MINORITY of Jews in the world are orthodox. The majority of visitors to the Kotel are almost certainly not orthodox, counting the hundreds of thousands of Jewish worshippers who come annually. Now, the majority of people who visit daily are likely orthodox. But if you think that more orthodox Jews visit the wall than non-orthodox, then you’ve not considered how few orthodox there are in the world.

    She was arrested for provoking unrest in an already tense and security-conscious public space, and for sassing a police officer.

    This is legal grounding for detention? Sassing? Provoking unrest by whose account? It is the “guardians of the wall” who are willing to resort to harassment (and rioting?)

    Are we blaming Intel for “provoking” the hareidim to riot by working on the Sabbath? Is there nothing to be said against intolerance and willingness to go to extreme lengths to get one’s way? Keeping the peace is a two-way street, and the threat of thugdom to enforce your preference is un-Jewish.

  • This is important, from another participant:

    At first, we were informed that she had been detained but not arrested, and that we would have to wait to see what happened. Anat asked the group to stay and sing in support of Nofrat – we stood for nearly an hour, singing Hebrew songs and talking with each other – the group consisted of ten Pardes students, 15 women from Bnai Jeshurun in New York, and a group of teenage participants in Netzer, as well as several Israeli women. Finally, we recieved news – Nofrat had been officially arrested, and was being charged as a criminal with wearing a tallit and holding a sefer Torah at the Kotel. What world do we live in where this is a criminal charge?

    We followed Nofrat as she was moved to the closest police station, where we were informed that she was being investigated on criminal charges. “Investigated?” we said, “what investigation? Why haven’t they questioned any of us? We were all there.” Anat called a lawyer, and by 9:30, Nofrat had been let go. We joyfully sang “btzeit Yisrael m’mitzrayim” (when Israel came out of Egypt) as she walked out of the police station – she’s still being charged, and who knows what will happen to her.

    • Being permitted to roam freely on public property is one of the key features of a democracy just as the right to gather in public squares. So, I must ask, is the Kotel anybody’s privatye property?

      Christian tourists / pilgrims not only pray but conduct prayer services at the Kotel by the thousands pretty much any given day. This clearly tells us thay maintaining an 18th century status desideratus is more of a driving factor than actual religious concerns.

      Vicki is right; a situation like this one is not what the founders of Israel had in mind.

  • Spawn, YOU GO GIRL!! You don’t need to clear your motivations with the thought police before attending the Kotel. That wall is your as much is it is any Jew’s (despite what Ben-David may think). Keep up the good work.

  • Kung-Fu – the vast majority of non-Orthodox Jews have never set foot on Israeli soil.

    Poof – there goes your argument.

    Froylein asks:

    Being permitted to roam freely on public property is one of the key features of a democracy just as the right to gather in public squares. So, I must ask, is the Kotel anybody’s privatye property?

    See CK’s post above – where there has been provocation and violence previously – requiring a deal brokered in court – there is vigilance.

    … oh, and speaking of key features of a democracy – do German police let people hang Israeli flags in their apartment windows anymore?

  • I am very confused. Why are Orthodox women wearing tallit and reading from the Torah? Don’t women already have a space at The Kotel? Why are you celebrating your cycle? Also, wasn’t The Red Tent a really bad book?

  • B-D, speaking of democracy, the Duisburg case was investigated into and I posted about the findings of the investigation; I didn’t agree with the conclusion they’d come to, but in-and-of itself, they made their point.

    I’ve read CK’s explanation above. The compromise is not an agreement binding anybody to anything but those that had worked it out and those only in good faith even. There seems to be no legal foundation for police getting involved in executing what is not secular law. Not that I think people should go about provoking at any rate, but a deal, even in court, cannot be extended beyond those that were part in the agreement. What people should be questioning here is the role the secular executive plays in this whole thing. The religious feelings of the Orthodox males praying at the Kotel are just as valid as the religious feelings of those women. In Germany, you won’t see police removing someone from a church, synagogue or mosque on grounds of them practising their religion of the respective faith there. If the Kotel does not belong to an actual group / congregation in particular and is part of public property, access can only be common.

  • Ben-David: Oh? Of the 5.6 million Jewish Israelis, only 1/3 of them are hareidi, orthodox or “mostly traditional” (2004 Israeli Census Bureau). I’m sure neither of us will prove our point conclusively, but I think you’re joking if you think that there are enough orthodox out there to claim that

    But despite who is there more than anyone else, I appreciate froylein’s point above.

    Thus, I propose a timeshare: the Reconstructionists can have the Kotel plaza 1 day a month, the hareidi 2, the modern orthodox 3, Masortim-Conservative 5, the Reformim 6, and secular the remaining 11 days. Seems only fair, based on rough population estimates.

  • Sigh. Froylein, I have never ever seen Christian tourists / pilgrims conducting prayer services at the Kotel, not by the 1000s, 100s, or even dozens. I’ve seen Christians there for sure. they come in small groups or as individuals. The women are covered up and the men wear kippahs. They go to the Kotel, leave notes, quietly meditate and leave. I seriously have no idea what you are talking about.

    The Kotel is State property and like say, nature preserves, use of it is not unfettered. There are rules and regulations based on tradition and Supreme Court decisions. I guess the issue is one of balance of interests and while Kung Fu Jew is correct in noting that most Jews in the world aren’t Orthodox, most Jews that use the Kotel day in and day out either are Orthodox or are not interested in egalitarian minyans. That’s why the Touristy Kotel follows Orthodox norms.

    And froylein, as for the compromise – it was a court ruling and it is binding. Those violating it are subject to legal sanction. Issues of fairness and order are what are taken into account and I am certain that if more egalitarian minded Jews move to Israel or if more Israelis see egalitarianism as a value they want to experience at the Kotel, things will change. So by all means, I urge you and encourage you to move here, vote for the parties that’ll support your position, daven every single day at the kotel plaza in egalitarian minyans and advocate for change. Until the situation on the ground changes radically though, the basis and reasoning of the existing court orders will be enforced. One hopes these can be enforced in a more sensitive manner than they were the other day.

    Sorry Froylein, but your understanding of the law here is a little faulty. The Court orders were Supreme court decisions, binding on everyone in the land. On the other hand, the Supreme Court has shown a willingness to bend to popular sentiment. So, again, those of you who disagree with the Robinson’s Arch compromise, please by all means move here. Seriously.

    German precedents are uhm… completely irrelevant here.

    • CK, I saw those Christians when I was there. It would have taken a lot to not see (and hear) them.

      And since when has the judiciary in a democratic state been put into the position of the legislative?

      • Froylein: I have never seen Christians worshiping openly at the Kotel, and I live here. I go to the Kotel at least once a week at different hours. I have never seen or heard of what you’re talking about. As to your question “since when has the judiciary in a democratic state been put into the position of the legislative?” the answer is ALL THE TIME. Parliamentary legislation in most civilized countries is always subject to judicial review.

        • Judicial review but not judicial lawmaking. There’s a world of a difference in that.

          Maybe you need to adjust your goydar. 🙂

          And as for all that moving talk, the majority of Israeli Jews is not Orthodox, so apparently they either don’t cast their vote in elections or they are being misrepresented.

          • the difference between judicial review and judicial lawmaking is a subtle one and often depends upon the level of judicial activism of the court. Former chief justice Barak’s supreme court was very often activist, usually to the benefit of more liberal causes. Not a bad thing in my opinion. I have always been in favor of an active judiciary. The majority of all Israelis cast their votes. It’s not that they’re being misrepresented, they just don’t give a shit about egalitarianism in religion. It’s foreign to them.

          • The difference is not so subtle as it can determine whether you’ve got a functioning democracy at hand or not.

            The odd thing is that the egalitarian idea seems not to have been foreign to the early Zionists.

    • I don’t know about this, ck. The majority in Israel disagree with the small percentage of ultra-Orthodox IDF conscripts, but the situation doesn’t change.

      The Kotel is no different. To the shame of Israel, they have permitted only Orthodox yeshivas and wealthy individuals to construct buildings there. They let organized groups to run booths there with tefillin, but other groups are not permitted. The worst offense, however, is the constant approach of schnorrers asking for donations. They are there daily and can be very aggressive. However, they are not arrested or humiliated even as they destroy the experience for others. It wouldn’t bother me if I heard a woman reading the Torah, but it disturbs some of these men who shamelessly interrupt me at the Kotel.

      The point is that once again Israel has given way to people who represent the fringes. In this case, it happens to be a very important place.

      • TM, seriously. Government does not run on the basis of opinion polls. Sheesh. Civics 101 dude. You want the ultra Orthodox to go to the army? Vote for a party that will not kowtow to ultra Orthodox. Move here and vote. To whatever extent the ultra Orthodox have any sway at the kotel, this is part of a legal and I dare say even Democratic process. The Kotel may be the patrimony of the Jewish people but it is up to the duly elected government of the state of Israel to run it in a way that maintains order and security while being fair to as many people as possible. Move here. You and all your friends. Vote for whoever you like. daven at the kotel every day, morning, noon and night. Things will change then. but for now the Orthodox control of the Kotel is not just legal, it also represents the will of the people of Israel, regardless of what the polls say. And it will continue to do so till the day Israel elects a government that refuses to give what some may consider unfair benefits to the ultra Orthodox. That having been said, again, why not push for spiritually fulfilling egalitarian minyans on the Temple Mount. Surely the continued control of the Temple Mount by the Waqf is something most Israelis are not in favor of? Surely preventing Jews, regardless of their denominational affiliation, from praying at Judaism’s holiest site is a terrible affront to freedom of religion and religious practice. Why not advocate for that? There’s TONS of room up there. tons! And we can even split up the times too! heck just give us a couple of days a month! Anything! But no. instead, anyone Jewish caught praying at the Temple Mount is subject to arrest and detention. Why is that not an issue? i mean really, the Kotel is just a wall! The Temple Mount however, that’s the real deal!

        • Wait! You want me to move to israel, vote, and then change things at the Kotel by davening there? But if I do then I might be arrested or humiliated.

          If I vote, it won’t change the effective coalition-making numbers of religious Mks who deal with the entrenchment of their constituency in places like the Kotel or in funding for education. The point you’re making should not apply to a place of worship anyway, but if it does, your argument is rendered moot by the reality. It’s not hypothetically impossible to protest this issue by davening at the Kotel, this prohibition upon those who would like a different service is enforced by the law, as this story shows.

          Of course certain people stay away from the Kotel.

          • Wrong mon ami The Middle. I think if say 1000 people assemble twice a day every day in the kotel plaza to daven Shachrit, Mincha and Ma’ariv, and if those same 1000 people crowd the heck out of Robinson’s Arch for their Torah readings on Shabbat, Monday and Thursday, then in the interests of fairness, the Knesset and the Supreme Court will HAVE to do something in order to fairly accommodate everyone. And if a good number of egalitarian minded individuals in Israel start tapping into that majority of Israelis who aren’t Orthodox and get them to let their MKs know that they want the Touristy Kotel to be more egalitarian then zehu. You’ll have your way. But so far none of this has happened. Why? Because, unlike Orthodox Jews, most egalitarian minded individuals do not pray in a daily minyan, let alone at the Kotel, wall, plaza or otherwise. Even though they meet just once a month for Shachrit, WOW has never been able to get over 100, let alone 1000 people to their services at the Kotel Plaza and Robinson’s Arch. Finally, and I may have mentioned this before, most “secular” Israelis don’t give a shit about egalitarian worship. Heck even Tel Aviv has more Orthodox synagogues than Reform or Conservative ones. Combined. And multiplied by 10. Most Israelis who do not practice Orthodox Judaism on a daily basis, do not think twice about using an Orthodox Rabbi to officiate at their weddings. When they do go to a synagogue for bar mitzvahs or high holidays, it is invariably an Orthodox synagogue that they go to. It’s not a picture of Rabbi Yoffie they have hanging from their car mirror when they drive to the beach on Saturday. It’s Rabbi Kedouri, The Babba Sali, Rav Nachman or Rabbi Schneerson (zichronam levracha). You think Haredim are intolerant? Heh. Go ahead. Ask most working class Israelis what they think of women wearing kippas, or what they think of gay Rabbis. Go ahead. I’ll wait….

            Or I can save you the trouble. Many Israelis view egalitarian worship as foreign and ultimately inauthentic. Other Israelis are so secular that any kind of Jewish worship is uninteresting to them. So yeah. Y’all have a lot of work ahead of you there before you can truly claim the support of the majority, at least here in Israel. But please, don’t let the facts dissuade you. Please by all means feel absolutely free to move here. Feel absolutely free to gather daily for sanctioned worship at the Kotel Plaza and Robinson’s Arch in massive, massive numbers. So massive that you can’t be ignored. So massive that your needs and concerns have to be addressed, to your liking, by the government.

            And while your at it, why stop at the Touristy Kotel? How spiritually fulfilling would it be to have any minyan ON har ha bayit, the Temple Mount, truly the most holy and revered site of Judaism? I mean lets even use Kung Fu Jew’s solution. How many Muslims are there in Israel? 1.5 million? that’s 20% of the population. Why should they have 100% of the access for worship to the exclusion of everyone else? That’s intolerant! OK, I’ll be sensitive to their needs and super duper tolerant. How about the Jews get the Temple Mount on say Saturday and Thursday? Muslims can have it all the other days of the week! And it’s big enough for Jews of every denomination to share without anyone getting in anyone’s face. the area immediately by the Mugrabi gate can be neutral, the Orthodox can have Solomon’s Stables, Egalitarian worshipers can have the area by Solomon’s throne and it’ll be awesome! Heck the Muslim’s can even still pray in their mosques, there’s THAT MUCH space up there!

            But I digress. So yes. Get cracking egalitarian Jews. Make it happen!

  • First off,
    since the ‘Zionists’ were so not religious and did not want them in the government or army, they let the religious people have their little world to control. A world they did not care less about.

    Given that, like Ben David says, the majority of Jews are not Orthodox but they also couldn’t care less to make aliyah and want to change the situation.

    Now,
    How can I take this seriously when the writer deals with the crisis by going shopping and has her no stating she has no connection to the Wall? Why bother coming to the Wall at all? It’s only a site that the Orthodox have made holy, why give them more credit for their dumb rules?

    Wear kips, talits, tefillin? Nothing wrong with that, but why? and why in public? Why do you want to be like men? This is so anti-Jewish and anti-tradition of our ancestors. Women are exempt from a lot of responsibility. Do they really want to have an obligation to pray three times a day? Do they really want to say kaddish three times a day for a whole year when a parent dies and desperately search for a minyan each time no matter where they might be stuck? Or is this just one of these pick and choose things?

    CK, you’re handling this well, I like the ability to keep a cool head.

    • Hmmmm, women shall not do / have the male share in religious duties but have been made work in “male” professions in Orthodox circles from the mid 1800s on to support their families (which eventually brought about the European feminist movement and women’s suffrage) in conflict with the line in Genesis that men should be working in sweat / under efforts and women be giving birth in pain? Women have already taken on the male obligations in the actually Orthodox, not the Flexidox, demographic to sustain their families. Makes me wonder how men in those circles will ever be able to live up to that.

  • Well I guess we will just have to wait till moshiach comes to see if these women are right and if the horrible right wing charedim are wrong. O and yes that was sarcasm and I honestly don’t care if anyone attacks me for it.

  • 36 comments of pure LoL.

    ” I do not feel spiritually or religiously connected to the Wall because I see it as a symbol of how the conservative right dominates religion and politics in Israel”

    When you open your article like this how can anyone take you serious?

    I deserve to have equal rights to do what I want in a place that really, I dont give 2 %&@$ about.

    You did it for the LoL’s.

  • Democracy! Pluralism! Religious Oppression!

    …Statistics!

    Long term polling by the Guttman Institute and Tel-Aviv University have firmly established the following general divisions among Jewish Israelis – largely stable over the last 30 years:

    25-33 percent call themselves “religious” or “haredi”. These people would be called “Orthodox” in America.

    33-40 percent call themselves “traditional” – which includes kashrut, family purity, Jewish-enriched education, some form of Sabbath observance, and an acceptance of Torah Judaism’s authority in matters such as conversion and “pluralism”. These people would place in the “Conservadox” or traditional wing of the American Conservative movement.

    25-35 percent call themselves “secular” – but simply living here gives them knowledge of/involvement in Judaism that is rare among most American Reform/Conservative Jews. Outside a hard (and shrinking) core of virulently anti-religious lefties, many of these people are flocking to adult study groups in a wave of curiosity about Judaism. They would be happy if official (Orthodox) Judaism put on a more welcoming face when they encounter it – but they see the “progressive” movements as weird, syncretic, and not relevant here – a sentiment summed up by the famous cliche “the synagogue I don’t attend should be Orthodox”.

    These numbers have not changed significantly over the past 30 years – the attempts by the Left to counter the religious with Soviet immigrants has been offset by the higher birthrates among the religious/traditional.

    THIS is why the Kotel and other public expressions of Judaism in Israel looks the way they do.

    Nothing undemocratic here, no oppressive Taliban – just a handful of “progressives” using fancy words like “pluralism” to obscure the apathy of most Israelis to their program.

  • Eh, maybe it only strikes me as one of my majors was mathematics, but 25% to 33% is not a majority. The explanations on what the affiliations entail are cute but wishful thinking; most of my Israeli friends are secular (native born as well as immigrants, from all walk of society), which means they’re Jewish by name but don’t care in the slightest about religion and would not consider Orthodoxy “if only” as being religious is nothing they can relate to. Furthermore, most of them despise Haredim. All “traditional” Jews I know also are way less religious than described above; they compare to those Christians called “Taufscheinchristen” in German (Christian as can be told from the christening document). They will possibly eat something special on the Sabbath, work-permitting, possibly attend synagogue on the one or the other high holiday, will usually go for circumcision of their sons but still have doubts, and consider crustaceans good for consumption as long as the original animal isn’t recognisable anymore.
    So the definitions are anything but clear-cut.

  • Froylein Does Math:

    Eh, maybe it only strikes me as one of my majors was mathematics, but 25% to 33% is not a majority.

    But 25-30 percent Ortho PLUS 25-30 traditional PLUS a bunch of secular but apathetic… and we’re easily over 80 percent.

    Froylein Does Statistics:

    The explanations on what the affiliations entail are cute but wishful thinking; most of my Israeli friends

    Oh, well that settles it, then – how could 20-year long-term surveys by major universities possibly be more accurate than Froylein’s rolodex.

    Yeah, Fro, you and Pauline Kael…
    /eyeroll>

    • B-D, just that what you delivered above was wishful thinking paired with vague figures and an odd take on basic calculating. If you add up Orthodox and your take on traditional with people that deliberately are neither, it’s like adding three cows to three chickens and four fish; in the end you get swineflu.

      Spare me the passive-aggressive sentiments that are the last resort of those that have got nothing better tyo say.

      To get the exact numbers, look here. According to the Israeli Census Bureau, a total of approx. 31% of Israeli Jews are Haredi, Orthodox or religious-traditional, 66% non-religious-traditional or secular (2006 numbers). This distinction clearly shows that the majority of traditionalists and secular Jews is not thought of as religious by the Israeli government either. To claim they’d be open to Orthodoxy if Orthodoxy were more open towards them is absurd; those people deliberately choose not to be anything like Orthodox Jews AND they make up the majority of Jews in Israel. They might not make up the majority of Israeli readers of Jewlicious, but those are not necessarily representative of the entire population.

      • Even taking your interpretation of the statistics into account Froylein, the fact remains that Israelis simply don’t care in large enough numbers about egalitarian worship at the wall. Just because they’re not Haredi doesn’t mean they’re progressive, egalitarian whatever Jews.

        • Maybe they just don’t care about religious matters altogether. Maybe they do but won’t bother arguing with a fringe group that has had undeniably disproportionate influence on public life.

          My interpretation of the statistics are just holding the numbers up to democratic ideals.

          • Maybe they do but won’t bother arguing with a fringe group that has had undeniably disproportionate influence on public life.

            Yup.

          • The disproportionate influence Haredi parties have had on public life was achieved legally and democratically. No?

          • Absolutely, ck.

            It’s too bad that it’s causing many Israelis to leave Israel or to feel resentful towards the country as a result. You know who’s leaving? The academics, the scientists, the businesspeople, the artists, etc. The ultra-Orthodox community doesn’t contribute on a per capita basis anywhere near what the average, secular Israeli contributes to the economy and even, arguably, to the country’s cultural output. Is torah study so important? I guess to some people it is, especially when subsidized by the government…and tax money from non-torah-studiers. But yeah, it’s all legal and democratic.

  • The Israeli political system places excessive emphasis on intensity of preferences, as this discussion shows. You lump the people who agree with you with the people who don’t care and declare victory…. Ultimately this approach poses a danger to the rule of law, understood as the positing of norms in which people are equally treated. It’s tempting to dispense with equal treatment when you’re more invested and more insistent than the other guy, and can bend the rules to your will.

  • What does “Secular” mean?
    From the IDI’s Guttman Center – one of the long-term studies:

    The data collected show that a significant portion of secular Jews in Israel report that they are religiously observant to some extant. According to the 2008 Democracy Index only 32% of secular Jews are non-observant (see chart 6). An in-depth study of religious behavior in Israel, conducted in the year 2000 as a co-operation between the Guttman Center and the Avichai Foundation, shows that a vast majority of secular Jews observe certain aspects of Jewish tradition (eat kosher food, refrain from driving on Shabbat, fast on Yom-Kippur, do not eat Chametz on Pesach, light Chanukah candles etc.), which explains the tendency of most secular Jews to report that they are somewhat observant.

    … so it’s a long trek from “secular” to “egalitarian minyan activist”. Sure, you can get to a statement like “50 percent of Israelis are secular” if you include kashrut, some shabbat observance, and fasting on Yom Kippur as “secular”.

    But those people are not very likely to support fringe anti-clerical movements.

    Look at the long-term picture – just under 50 percent are haredi, ortho, or traditional. 80 percent of the country is doing Jewish.

    Only 20 percent are REALLY “secular” – as in opposed to traditional Judaism.

    Links:
    http://www.idi.org.il/sites/english/TheGuttmanCenterSurveys/Documents/G7.pdf

    http://www.idi.org.il/sites/english/TheGuttmanCenterSurveys/Pages/GuttmanSurvey5.aspx

  • Sigh. You know what’s funny? Both you and Ben David are wrong and the actual situation is somewhere… in the middle. Of course some resent the influence wielded by the Haredim. But you cannot ignore the culture of entitlement fostered by the Left wing elites that replaced the selflessness and unity that helped create this miraculous country. Now if you’re an idealist, you’re a friar – an attitude that is very prevalent amongst the self-righteous doucheoisie that leave Israel and blame everything and everyone else while failing to acknowledge their very selfish motivations. The lack of moral leadership, the lack of empathy for others, the lack of basic Ahavat Yisrael and Jewish unity are elements that one finds in both the Haredi sector and in the fancy pants secular yuppie sector that are leaving Israel. I say fuck them both. And it would behoove both you and Ben David to take off your ideological blinders and recognize the truth in each others comments instead of trying to score points.

  • Funny that the Israeli Census Bureau has got a different take on “secular” in their more recent 2006 figures. [Apart from that, I will highly question the findings of any supposedly academic institution that confuses “extent” and “extant”.]

    The questions that naturally should be asked is whether Israeli secular Jews don’t drive on the Shabbat out of spiritual concerns or rather because there’s nowhere to go respectively depending on where they go, they might get attacked. Do they eat kosher deliberately or because it’s the easiest option in most places? Do they understand that lighting Chanukah candles is not a religious task in so much as the popularity of Chanukah is American Jewry’s response to American Xmas and not only by coincidence is of minor religious importance? (Many ultra-Orthodox Jews only observe it the traditional way, i.e. at shul and not as a Xmas knock-off party at home.)

    Is it democratic if a certain institution is commissioned by a state to take care of certain matters and in the process changes its stance on core issues to an extent that they affect society as a whole
    Is it democratic if public property is fully accessible to one sex only?
    Israel will have to address those issues but not by commissioning tackling them to one group only.

  • ck, what Spawnof6 is saying has nothing to do with a “self-righteous doucheoisie that leave Israel and blame everything and everyone else while failing to acknowledge their very selfish motivations.”

    Spawnof6 is a woman who, because she is a woman, cannot pray like a man at the Western Wall. When she does, she could apparently be arrested or have people talk about how disruptive she is being.

    Let’s go over this one more time. A person who wants to pray in a holy site is prevented from doing so and if she tries, then she is accused of being a troublemaker. It’s all democratic and legal, but it’s also really unfortunate. Her entirely CIVIL action of praying there to PROTEST this unfair situation is depicted as extremism. In the meantime, she has no levers of power because of a historic arrangement that gave power to a minority over all civic and religious matters.

    That minority happens to be all male, Orthodox and has nothing to do with Leftist elites, rotten Ashkenazis, nefarious capitalists or wish-washy housewives.

    So when you write about “The lack of moral leadership, the lack of empathy for others, the lack of basic Ahavat Yisrael and Jewish unity,” you are surely not describing these egalitarian-services-seeking women. If you’re talking about the “Leftist elites,” it may be that they lack “basic ahavat Israel” and “Jewish unity,” but it could also be that they reject the exclusionary aspect that some proponents of “ahavat Israel and Jewish unity” share.

    And would you please get back to the email discussion we were having. It’s important.

    • Good lord TM. You completely misunderstood what I was saying. Spawn of 6 (should be Spawn of 5 – remind me to fix that) is a dear friend of mine. As are her sisters. And of course when I write about “The lack of moral leadership, the lack of empathy for others, the lack of basic Ahavat Yisrael and Jewish unity,” I am not talking about her or the people that went to pray. All I said was that there was an arrangement that allowed for egalitarian services at the Kotel. It may be unsatisfying but if the Haredim had their way, there wouldn’t be any egalitarian services at Robinson’s Arch either, or quiet egalitarian worship at the Kotel Plaza. The Supreme Court attempted to craft a solution that balanced everyone’s interests and to be fair, the Haredim have not sought to interfere with worship at Robinson’s Arch at all since then. As for the “Leftist Elites” for the most part they are completely secular and couldn’t give a rat’s ass about any form of worship, egalitarian or otherwise. God is for suckers. When they kvetch about Haredim there is a note of bullshit in the kvetching because the Haredim hardly ever affect their lives.

  • Oh, [the] Haredim affect their diets, choices of leisure-time activities and who to get married to and in what fashion. Call me picky, but I think that’s pretty influential for a fringe group.

    • Froylein: Haredim aren’t the only people in Israel who want a Jewish State as opposed to merely a State for the Jews. That’s hardly what I would call a fringe sentiment.

      • The Haredi take on Judaism is a fringe sentiment. The figures provided by the Israeli Census Bureau show just that. Otherwise more people would be Haredi. Also, don’t you find it ironic that Haredim theologically reject a state of Israel that is not eschatological? Also, isn’t Israel supposed to be a “home” to all Jews? Doesn’t “home” connote the feeling of being welcome?

        • Once again froylein, you don’t seem to understand. Some believe that Israel should be a mere State for the Jews, others believe Israel should be a Jewish State. You don’t have to be Haredi to want your food to be kosher. You don’t have to be Haredi to wish for a peaceful Sabbath. You don’t even have to be Haredi to be opposed to mixed marriages, and finally, you don’t have to be Haredi to be opposed to modes of religious practice that are inspired by foreign non-traditionally Jewish values.

          Despite all this, one has many dining options that are unkosher and/or available on the Sabbath, even in Jerusalem. Just as there exist Haredi enclaves, there are fiercely secular enclaves in all major cities and many smaller yishuvim. The key to our national survival is striking a balance between competing interests and that’s what the Supreme Court attempted to do when it assigned Robinson’s Arch as an area for Kotel prayer that allows for non-traditional worship. If one’s goal is to have a spiritually relevant experience within such a non-traditional context, Robinson’s Arch is exactly as holy as the Western Wall aka the Touristy Kotel. The only difference is that the Touristy Kotel is larger than Robinson’s Arch which reflects the facts on the ground – the people that use the Kotel area the most, by far, for prayer are Orthodox Jews, from the Haredi to those who merely subscribe to the Orthodox form of worship. Thus, it was a fair compromise to assign Robinson’s Arch to Non-traditional minyans and to maintain the status quo at the Western Wall. The only fair way to change that is for the area to become inundated with non-traditional worshippers to the point where the balance of interests would dictate the need to make a change.

          As to the larger question, if I didn’t believe in God and if I didn’t believe that God gave us this land, I’d be a fervent and tireless anti-Zionist. Hence my belief in a Jewish State. But even with that belief in God, I will always encourage a respectful execution of the balance of power. I mean it’s no secret that I’m not into egalitarian minyans. Despite that I firmly believe that the police action at the Kotel demonstrated an extreme lack of consideration, tact and courtesy and that Egalitarian minyans have the right to pray with the utmost dignity anywhere in Israel. The situation ought to have been handled more delicately and the detention was completely unnecessary.

  • Froylein:

    The majority of restaurants in TA, Herzliya, Haifa are non-kosher – even if the food is kosher, they don’t get kosher certification so that they can open on Shabbat.

    Most shopping malls in the country are open on Shabbat.

    And as CK pointed out – the Haredim have kept the peace at the Kotel, not interfering at Robinson’s Arch. It’s the “progressives” who keep trying to force their way on the majority.

    Of course, the middle is desperately trying to cover up that simple fact: that those offended by the WOW provocateurs are in fact the majority – at the Kotel and in larger Israel.

    Which is why – like you – he must conjure up a haredi boogeyman. And go through the standard liberal contortion of delegitimizing an entire segment of the Israeli population while whining about “pluralism” and “inclusiveness”. Nice trick, that.

    Inclusiveness for me, but not for thee – even if you are the majority of those Jews devoted to the Kotel.

    So: could both of you spare us the Chicken Little “Orthodox Taliban” talk – you’re only embarrassing yourself.

  • B-D, for a change you might want to try to get that I’m not after Haredim. If that is the most intelligent retort you can come up with in explaining why division of powers doesn’t appear to be working and as far as religious matters are concerned, a fringe group is put into normative power (that is the issue I’ve addressed), then you should be the one to be embarrassed.
    I stated that Israel should be home to all Jews, so don’t give me that faulty Inclusiveness for me, but not for thee line of reasoning. My ideal is not to exclude anybody.

    CK, you’re bringing up an argument that is void in itself as it concedes that if you do not wish Israel to be a Haredi-flavoured Jewish state (again, where matters of religion are concerned), then Israel cannot be “home” to you any more or maybe even less than the diaspora can. Isn’t that sad?

    • WTF froylein?? There are legions of Jews who are Orthodox and religious and are not Haredi. I can believe in the God of the Torah and not be Haredi. Honestly froylein, where are your reading comprehension skills today??

      • CK, it’s rather that you’re not getting what I’m saying. It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as those that prescribe certain matters for the entirety of Israel’s Jewry (not always in accordance with their respective theologies) are comprised of 7% of that group, regardless to what extent adherents to other groups might agree with them.

        • Israel’s Supreme Court represents the entire country. Keep in mind this is the Supreme Court that has granted rights to gays and has been more likely to rule against Haredim than for them. Successive governments who have upheld that court decision also represent that majority of the country. How can you say that these institutions are not representative. If the Haredim exert undue influence its because they really want it and there aren’t enough people who care in Israel to keep it away from them. The solution then is to get more egalitarian-minded worshippers to move here and vote, and pray!

          • CK, that’s just the point; the Supreme Court’s good intentions aside, it’s not the legislative. I don’t know whether Israel’s constitution explicitly grants equal rights to men and women alike (I assume it does), but a supreme court’s job is also, or rather foremostly, to determine what’s constitutional and what’s not. People have tried to oppose the Haredi influence on the lives and opportunities, so to speak, of even non-Haredi Jews (e.g. the revocation of non-Orthodox conversions alongside the annulment of marriages), but the system failed miserably at setting matters straight. You won’t get more egalitarian-minded people to move somewhere where their spiritual and social fulfilment doesn’t stand a fair chance, no matter what the outcome of the ballot. Unless they come from countries with high rates of anti-Semitism, they might well fare better staying where they are. Mind you, the majority of people in today-Israel and early Zionists are / were non-Haredi and not even Orthodox. And if non-Haredi, non-Orthodox young Jewish professionals that grew up in Israel to third-generation Zionist parents start gauging their opportunities abroad, the liberties they experience there and the values they believe in, who can blame them?

  • Muffti is coming to this a bit late but he thinks you guys are pretty clearly butting heads on one of hte classic problems of democracies with politically opposed groups: how do you both make equal protection of all citizen’s rights (on public lands!) and also protect the rights of minorities (aren’t haredim a clear minority??? Where is the evidence that the MAJORITY are on the haredim’s side on this?) and their legitimate rituals etc that encompass public land.

    Obvious solution? Reach a compromise. But this, naturally, is easier said then done. So these fights will always occur, and over and over again, so long as their is land of interest to both parties. Why does the existence of a past compromise suggest that currently both parties agree and are having their rights adequately protected?

    To Muffti’s mind, there is no good answer to this question. In the end, someone’s rights will have to be violated. And from then on in, it’s just a matter of whose we prefer to trample.

  • Froylein – your post betrays the kind of circular thinking that bedevils these discussions – and turns many MOR Israelis off from democracy.

    See, it’s like this – in a democracy “But I Know I’m Right” is not a valid argument.

    Yet many “progressive-egalitarian” types start out with the rigid belief that their way is the only right way – a paradoxical mirror of religious fundamentalism.

    This leads you/them to define anyone who disagrees with you as “undemocratic” and benighted.

    And so – despite CK and me showing quite clearly how the numbers work in Israel – you and middle continually relate to the Haredi electorate’s influence as illegitimate, even though it is democratically won and negotiated.

    This totally UNdemocratic attitude leaks out of almost every sentence of your post. Some examples:

    People have tried to oppose the Haredi influence on the lives and opportunities, so to speak, of even non-Haredi Jews (e.g. the revocation of non-Orthodox conversions alongside the annulment of marriages), but the system failed miserably at setting matters straight.

    So “setting matters straight” means “ordering society as I see fit” – whether or not the “people opposing Haredi influence” actually have public support.

    CK and I have invited you to come here and vote. Your response is incredibly circular – and exposes the my-way-or-the-highway intolerance behind the “egalitarian” veneer:

    You won’t get more egalitarian-minded people to move somewhere where their spiritual and social fulfilment doesn’t stand a fair chance, no matter what the outcome of the ballot.

    … but the egalitarian agenda DID get a fair hearing – and the majority of Israelis disagree or are apathetic. There are several political parties with anti-Haredi platforms. Nobody has silenced them, or prevented Israelis from voting for them.

    Why should your agenda be imposed “no matter what the outcome of the ballot”? Isn’t part of democracy the need to persuade your fellow citizens, and accept it if the disagree with you?

    Do you see the circularity here:
    I’ll only come to Israel if things are done my way. Why? Because I am a champion of “pluralism”!

    How does that work?

    Why is anything but acceptance of “progressive” opinion not sufficiently democratic?

    It’s a neat trick – and a major tactic of PC argument: only people who hew to the progressive agenda are considered fair, democratic, and enlightened – and only to them are the privileges of democracy extended.

    Circular – and hypocritical.

    • Ben David: This is not an issue of left vs. right and has nothing whatsoever to do with over zealousness of the PC thought police or the traditional whipping boys of the right. I am firmly on the left of the political spectrum but I am also a firm believer in the rule of law, due process and Democracy. And before you get too self righteous with froylein and the middle, do note how the roles were reversed on issues important to the right. Think of the Israeli’s right arguments against the disengagement in Gaza. Also i can’t help chuckle when someone on the right suddenly defends an activist Supreme Court. Bottom line? My position is the principled one and you’re all wrong 🙂

      I’m kidding of course, but I would ask everyone to please express consistent values. For instance, you can’t disapprove of an activist Supreme Court when it doesn’t suit you, ie when they craft a compromise at the kotel, but approve when they allow for expanded gay rights in Israel. I’m not a fan of the stranglehold the Haredim have in certain matters but I’ll be the first to say that these benefits have been acquired legally and democratically and all I can do is vote and advocate for my position in the hope that things change. I mean it was nice for the Reform ladies to present the Women of the Wall with a sefer Torah. But really? Fuck that noise. Move here.

      Also, and more importantly, I am not going to demonize Haredim and blame them for all of society’s ills just because I disagree with them. That’s simply retarded.

  • Nope, the numbers are not convincing anybody but somebody who’s got a straight F-record in mathematics. 7% are a minority as well as 35% are a minority. Explanations on how secular people might agree with single aspects of Haredi / Orthodox lifestyle / theology does not mean that they agree with them in all matters relevant to society. Obviously they don’t otherwise they’d be Haredi. Secular does not mean what you wish it to mean. I say Israel should be a home to all Jews that wish to live there no matter what their degree of observance. You read it as saying, “Things must be done my way because I’m a hypocrite like that.” At the same time you’re trying to make it sound logical that Haredim have got too much influence by claiming secular Jews were too apathetic. Do you see the contradictions in your line of reasoning? I’ve given examples of where Haredim have been commissioned to be in normative power where society is concerned.

    And CK, I think a supreme court, no matter where, should not step over its constitutional boundaries. A supreme court is not the legislative and shouldn’t act as such, no matter whether I like its rulings or not.

    Also, I am not demonising Haredim. (Noticed how above I made it a point to use brackets around the definite article you chose to use in reference to them as I do not consider them a bulk monolithic block?) Frpm what I’ve seen and read over the time I’ve been associated with Jewlicious, I’m the only one here with actually Haredi friends. You know that quite well.
    Reading something into my lines I haven’t said anywhere and making that the strongest point in a series of incredibly weak arguments, going by the conversations we usually have, is retarded. Still luv ya, shtroykop.

    • With all due respect froylein, in all cases here, the Supreme Court acted well within its constitutional boundaries as it were. The possibility of judicial review of legislative actions acts as an important check to legislative over-zealousness in any properly functioning democracy. All legislation has to pass constitutional muster and the only body that can determine that is the judiciary. Furthermore, I dare say that Israel’s legal landscape would be a lot “blacker” without the intervention of the Supreme Court.

      As far as the numbers go, anyone voting for Likud or Kadima knows damn well that they will in all likelihood have to form a coalition with the religious parties in order to govern. And yet they vote for them anyway. As for political parties that will not make deals with the Haredim, Tommy Lapid’s Shinui went from 15 seats to oblivion. Meretz is a shadow of its former self. The voters have spoken no matter what math you use.

      Finally, clearly I love you more froyanova!

  • The voters spoke for certain parties taking the rough with the smooth. And many are taking their consequences; migration to Germany from Israel has never been stronger than over the recent years.

    I love you more than strawberries dipped in Belgian chocolate!

  • CK:
    I am firmly on the left of the political spectrum but I am also a firm believer in the rule of law, due process and Democracy. And before you get too self righteous with froylein and the middle
    – – – – – – – – –
    … but that is exactly the difference between you and those of the Froy/middle (and sometimes Muffti) stripe.

    This is very much about political correctness – in particular, the PC left’s selective application of notions of “rule of law, due process, and Democracy.”

    Saying you stand for these things means nothing if you roll over their restrictions when it suits you – or disrespect the right of others (the majority!) to disagree with you.

    I am now witness to almost 30 years of “ephah v’ephah” from “progressive” Israelis and liberal American MOTs on issues that cut directly to the heart of “law, due process, and democracy”.

    Free Speech and Expression:
    Voice of Peace operates unmolested for 30-plus years – and Abie Nathan ends it by sinking the ship offshore, causing an ecological disaster.

    But Artuz 7 tries to operate on the exact same pattern, and is hounded – its broadcast equipment confiscated.

    Efah v’efah.

    And throughout the Oslo years, protest permits were denied or revoked to nationalists. In one particularly awful incident, the court actually considers taking a 14-year old girl from her family and sending her for “re-education” for the “crime” of distributing anti-expulsion leaflets.

    Rule of Law:
    Soldiers refusing to serve in the “Occupation Army” are lionized, given free press – and never punished by the army.

    Soldiers holding signs indicating the problematic nature of expulsion orders are severaly punished and demonized.

    Efah v’efah.

    Democracy:
    Oslo is started when Rabin – elected on a security platform – disregards his mandate, with the support of press and courts. Barak and Sharon do the same. When the populace manages to elect a real nationalist, the press and the Inspector General’s office pile on, attempting to limit his ability to act.

    Sharon – attempting to avoid prosecution – disregards his own party’s platform and internal votes, and winds up creating a new party just to keep in power.

    The “watchdogs of democracy” say nothing – since he is doing their bidding. Magically, the corruption investigations against him slow (is that your “due process”?!?!). The head of the Association of Journalists urges his peers to “watch over Sharon like an etrog”.

    Efah v’efah.

    Sorry – the principles of democracy cannot be selectively applied, selectively suspended to promote the progressive agenda.

    So when you write:
    Think of the Israeli’s right arguments against the disengagement in Gaza.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    … these were exactly the claims that were made – that democracy was being subverted.

    You “ask everyone to please express consistent values” –
    I’m nothing if not consistent, CK.

    To promote democracy in a country in which many have no background in democracy – it is necessary for them to see equality under the law, a consistent application of democratic principles. They need to see that ALL sides abide by the limitations democracy sets on power.

    That’s NOT what most disenfranchised Israelis have seen from the “progressives” who’ve set themselves up to teach the Rest of Us what democracy is.

    Instead they’ve seen “efah v’efah” – selective deployment of slogans and Bolshevik double-talk to promote one political agenda, and disregard for democratic process by those who claim to speak for democracy.

    So they’ve learned to play THAT game.

    If free speech is denied and democratic process is perverted – then people learn to use other levers of power.

    Pointing out how we got here causes doesn’t mean this is the outcome I want – I want a democratic Israel as much as you.

    We’re not going to get there as long as those who talk tolerance/pluralism/democracy only do so when it suits them.

    In this case – a compromise was worked out and then (a vanishingly small number of) progressives continued – in their hubris – to impose their way on the majority.

    Instead of respecting the compromise – and the majority’s right to their opinion.

    Efah v’efah.

  • I am not Jewish and I don’t live in Israel. From my rather uneducated and possibly ignorant point of view here is my take on the matter. The temple wall was built by Orthodox Jews who believed in the Torah and in Rabbinic Law was it not? It seems to me that the issue here is simple. I would not go to the silence of a Catholic Church and start singing born again christian rock in the middle of the Catherdral without some raised eyebrows and possibly a polite escort out the door with directions on how to get to the nearest Pentecostal Service. Similarly if I arrived dressed as a priest it might elicit an even stronger response with perhaps a paddy wagon being brought in and a quiet chat to the men in white coats. Now I understand that these women were not dressed as priests but they were performing rites that are prescribe by the Torah/Rabbis for men to perform. This has been a Jewish custom for thousands of years and it is not hard to see why orthodox practitioners and even many traditional Jews would be offended by these practices. I understand that the wall is in what is considered to be a public area, but this public area is within the grounds of where the temple would have stood and as such is the only thing left until the new one is built…so I imagine it is a hallowed place like that of a church.If you go to visit foreign temples or the Vatican you are expected to wear certain forms of clothing and expected to act in a certain way..anyone who violates this principle runs the chance of being escorted and depending on the severity may be detained and charged. From reading all your posts it is clear that a place has been designated to accommodate other groups and other forms of worship. Personally I agree with Ben Davids assessment of the situation and think that he has put forward many good points. But from a purely theological point of view the Torah is pretty clear about what is acceptable and what is not…as individuals we might be able to pick and choose what we choose to follow and what we don’t, but let’s leave matters of politics out of religious matters which are defending an altogether different value and principle and are not about democracy…religion is not democratic..it is what it is…We may not agree with it but we should at least try to respect it in the same way that people seem to show respect to Islam with the Temple Mount situation as CK pointed out. If we want to change certain aspects then we can do that in the privacy of our own home or in places designated for those types of worship. By forcing a change onto a place that was clearly designed for orthodox worship we are taking away the rights of those individuals to practice in their traditional manner and without offense.

  • The Temple’s outer wall was originally built by Herod and, presumably, Roman slave laborers.

    The Torah does not speak about this wall and does not inform as to who should be outside of the temple. Well, there’s the part that could potentially be about prostitution there, but other than that, nothing mentions men only or black hats and Polish royalty 17th Century garb.

    These men, the Ultra-Orthodox ones, have little respect for Jews who are not Orthodox. They should not be making any determination about this sacred space. It belongs to all Jews, regardless of their sex. If it matters this much to the men – the separation and refutation of permission to have women pray there, they should move to a different part of the Wall and accommodate the women. At the very least, they should divide the space in front of the Wall evenly for men and women instead of taking up about 75% of the space there. And if it’s the sound of women’s voices that disturbs them, they should bring ear-plugs.

    Stoning used to be a punishment in the Torah and we’ve dropped that. Animal sacrifice used to be part of the Torah and we’ve eliminated that. There is no reason not to find solutions for arcane laws if they are implemented unfairly.

  • I know who built the temple..but whom it was built for is the point..at the time of building the tradition was for men to wear tallit and not for women..the wall is all that is left and is therefore a symbol of that tradition…if the women were to go into an orthodox synagogue and start practicing like the men do and walk into the mens space they would definately cause a stir and would probably not be surprised if they were yelled at or taken away…

  • I am curious why no one is making a stir about being allowed on the Temple Mount as is pointed out by CK…is it because you are worried about offending the Muslims? if you are concerned about not offending their beliefs why are you so quick to offend the beliefs of the Orthodox regardless of how silly their archaic laws might seem to you…there is a time and place for everything, there are progressive synagogues..either you believe in the symbology of the wall and the tradition it stands for or you dont, in which case you take yourself to a synagogue or place that is designated for your beliefs..

  • If it is just a place for prostitution as you say that the little liked Herod built and a public space then why the rush to say that they have right to come to this sacred place? either it is sacred or its not..in any case, it is my understanding that women are allowed to be at the wall and if they do so in quiet contemplation as is the tradition of the faith, they are not harrassed…if they come and perform practices which are traditionaly designated for men then why should they be surprised if they cause a stir?

  • actually..its crazy..here I am…not even a Jew and I find your comments about the wall offensive…even to me it is a symbol of something sacred and as much as I would like to go up and touch it and pray I would not want to do so if I knew that my presense there would be offensive to others…I would take my lead from the majority of the people who visit it and what they view as acceptable..if there were women yelling for these WOW members to stop then it must have offended their very core beliefs and should have also been considered and not just brushed aside as irrelevant…

  • I believe animal sacrifice was stopped because there is no temple to perform it in…i wonder if they will bring it back in once the third temple is rebuilt? I bet that will cause a stir…

    • Time’s have changed in theologies as well. The analogies are weak. It is a matter of how legal, not legitimate, each group’s claims are within the framework of the Israeli constitution. To uphold the customs of times long gone as the universal secular law of today is flawed logics.

  • its also not a law to have sex in front of your grandma but its not something you would do out of consideration for her ticker…in any case…i will leave you to your beliefs…this argument can go round and round with neither side seeing the others point of view…Religion is not a democracy and peoples beliefs are a touchy subject..to an orthodox Jew seeing a woman wearing a tallit is probably akin to seeing a bikini clad woman enter the vatican and you can’t deny that for thousands of years this has been the norm. I do think its a case of a minority trying to force a change on the majority..not it temrs of the whole of the Israeli population but in terms of the population of users who go there for religious reasons.

  • froylein: Not a law?? A Supreme Court decision in Israel is indeed a law. It’s like saying that Roe v Wade or Brown v Board of Education in the US are not laws. The Supreme Court of Israel’s decision regarding the allocation of the South Kotel for use by non-Orthodox minyanim is indeed a law that is fully enforceable. Furthermore in Israel, like in many other countries (say, Canada for instance), Supreme Court decisions can overturn legislation that is found to be unconstitutional. That’s the role of the Supreme Court – to enforce fundamental principles of justice, even against the will of the electorate and its representatives. That’s not the case here of course and no Knesset in over 20 years has sought to overturn or alter the Supreme Court’s Solomonic decision.

    Furthermore, Judaism has not dispensed with either capital punishment or animal sacrifice. Capital punishment can still be dispensed by a duly constituted and recognized Sanhedrin – though it should be noted that even when we had such, capital punishment was rarely administered – and animal sacrifices will resume with the re-dedication of a third temple.

    TM: The allocation of prayer spaces at the Kotel was determined by the Supreme Court. Not by dudes in the garb of 17th century Polish nobility. The vast majority of worship in Israel is done in places with a mechitzah and, I hate to say it but egalitarianism is not a religious Jewish value. I understand that for most Jews in America, more egalitarian forms of worship are the norm, but then again, most Jews in America rarely attend a Jewish religious ceremony in any kind of synagogue.

    The Supreme Court’s decision in the case of the Kotel attempted to strike a balance of interests between traditional and progressive Jews and it has stood unmolested for over 20 years. I appreciate the WOW’s desire to push envelopes but… I would have recommended a different approach. For instance, if what is sought is more space for women to pray in, all women need to do is descend upon the Touristy Kotel every day in such massive numbers that the civil authorities would have no choice but to expand the area allocated to them. If more egalitarian worship is indeed the norm, then all egalitarian minded people need to do is to physically take control of the Touristy Kotel. Don’t just worship there occasionally – worship there every day in massive numbers. Forty women worshiping in the Temple Plaza once a month are easy to dismiss – 400 three times a day however, not as easy to dismiss and 4000 on rosh chodesh, now that would be something. As is, the Supreme Court’s decision took into account the uh… facts on the ground, modes of usage and various interests involved and to date I see no reason to make more significant alterations (though they should really give the women more room). I look forward to the day when these facts are significantly altered.

    • I’ve been to the Kotel a number of times when the women’s section was teeming with people and the men’s was mostly empty.

      Or maybe it just appeared that way because the women had 30% of the space the men had.

      Do you have a link to the Israeli High Court ruling on this issue? I’d like to see it first-hand.

    • CK, to be more specific, supreme courts don’t exactly make laws; they can return them to the legislative for revision. That’s at least how it works in democracies. The supreme court in this case apparently presided over an agreement between two groups only one of which is part of the current dispute and therefore is not tied to the agreement between the two other parties. I don’t say the WoW shouldn’t have stuck to this agreement, but there is no apparent reason either why they had to.

      Izabella, you don’t seem to get the difference between a democracy and a theocracy. The Vatican, FYI, is an electoral monarchy.

  • Go to the Women of the Wall’s Wikipedia page. What do I look like? Google??

    As for the women’s section, you should see the Kotel on Shabbat and Chagim… even with 70% of the area in front of the wall allotted to them, Men are regularly packed in there just like sardines. Now I have noticed that the mechitzah is not set in concrete. In other words it can be moved. In fact I’ve seen them move it. There should be no reason not to move it further into the men’s section at off peak times so that the women can be more comfortable.

  • froylein, no offense but you’re arguing with a dude who knows a thing or two about law and basically you’re dead wrong. First of all, the judiciary does not function the same way in every country. It has nothing to do with democracy at all. In common law countries, precedent created by courts IS the law. Literally. Both the judiciary and the legislature are subject to the constitution but the final arbiter of constitutionality is the Supreme Court.

    In the United States in Roe v. Wade, a Texas law forbidding the granting of assistance to women seeking abortions was overturned by the Supreme Court because it was considered in violation of the 14th Amendment which was interpreted as granting a right to privacy and thus a woman’s right to choose. As you can see, the decision was occasioned by a case where a woman got pregnant and sought an abortion in Texas where abortions, except in the case of rape or incest, were illegal. Norma L. McCorvey (aka “Jane Roe”) sued the State of Texas (represented by Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade). The case set a new precedent and thus applies across the United States.

    This is just one case that took place in a Democratic country. So what do we learn? Courts in a Democracy can overturn legislation that is deemed unconstitutional. Decisions by a court in such matters are universally applicable to all until such time as another court overturns the decision or the legislature passes a law that overturns the decision and passes constitutional muster and/or Judicial review.

    The Israeli Supreme Court’s decision regarding the Kotel does not apply merely to one or two individual groups who happened to be a party to the initial case. It applies to all. Furthermore, no matter how you feel about judicial activism, the Supreme Court’s role in making such a decision was well within the scope of Democratic behavior and not even remotely exceptional or unprecedented within a Democratic context.

    Your declarations about the law in this case are extremely inaccurate, both in general and specifically how it applies in Israel. I would strongly urge you to at least read a basic text on the role of the judiciary in a Democracy before making such totally erroneous declarations in the future.

    That having been said, even my comments are an extreme oversimplification of the issues relating to judicial review and the role of a Supreme Court. But you’re still very, very wrong.

    I hope you still love me though… because I still love you!

  • well..seeing as i am so uneducated and cannot string these big words together let me put it another way..

    within a democracy you have families which do not function on democratic values…there are those who maybe have tried this experiment with this concept with varying success, but the results are debatable and for the most part we still refer to our parents as mum and dad and they still get the final say. Within democratic societies there are also religious groups and organisations which don’t necessarily function as democracies…within democratic societies there are still cultural norms and traditions which for the most part are upheld by the majority…

    …the wall is what remains of the old and the customs of another era and as such it represents those customs, if the women of WOW are trying to abolish those customs or alter them, so be it, but what are they doing at a place which represents the very values they find so abbhorent? Do the people who want to uphold those customs not deserve the same respect as any other religion, such as Islam which currently has a monopoly of the Temple Mount (also within a democracy though maybe disputed) In fact some progressive and modern Jews celebrate the fact that it is no longer standing and i have even heard comments to the effect of “I hope the ugly thing never gets re-built”

    It is up to the clerics and Rabbis to establish the norms of religious practice, just as it is up to a mother and father to establish rules within a home. If people wish to change those norms then they should work through these channels. Perhaps the WOW will be more effective and less contravertial if they stormed these meetings which i believe are held from time to time to discuss aspects of worship and Rabbinic Law. How is it helping anyone to stand there offending people who have been brought up to believe that for a woman to wear a tallit is a disgrace and perhaps even punishable by excommunication? (forgive me but i am not clear on matters of rabbinic law)

    Of course there have been cases of children sueing or divorcing their parents, but generally these people are frowned upon by the wider community except in cases of gross negligence…

    the other way is for the WOW to start their own synagogue with its new traditions and build a history of its own making and based on its own merits…perhaps they will usher in the Moshiah and be the founders of the Third temple..though i can’t imagine them agreeing to animal sacrifice…

    anyway..thats about it from my limited perspective…i can always recite the Alphabet song for your pleasure in my next post if that will make you happy.. 😛

  • Actually, CK, you’re just elaborating on what I explained above. The juidiciary doesn’t make the laws but can declare certain laws unconstitutional and hence return them for possible revision by the legislative. The Israeli supreme court could only have overturned an unconstitutional law in this case if the Israeli constitutio did not know equal rights for men and women. So they did only just preside over an agreement between two parties, nothing more.
    And since you know a thing or two about law, I’m confident that you know that a precedent is always only a model interpretation of the law and not the law as such and that there have been cases where precedents were overthrown by newer precedents or precedents created alongside other precedents in conflict with earlier rulings to the eye but addressing the vital differences in the details, etc.
    Since my studies only just included one semester of studying about the US political system and all my factual literature on it, I suppose, cannot be trusted cause you know how those academic folks are that write books (a claim I’ve frequently dealt with before), I asked our political science faculty, and they said I’m right on all accounts. If a judiciary starts creating laws, the system of checks-and-balances is dysfunctional and the democracy is instable.

    Izabella, in democracies, the state has got to abide by democratic rules. It was the state’s executive here the role of which was questioned. Also, in a democracy, certain rights granted in a democracy also apply to families. Another point you keep missing is that the Kotel is public property, therefore does not belong to any specific religious group and common law must be the premise upon which decisions regarding the Kotel must be taken. If I started blocking a public road claiming that is what my ancestors used to do, police would remove me regardless of whether my claim was right or wrong. If it’s up to a clergy to decide upon the normative treatment of public property, public conduct etc., then that’s called a theocracy.

    Keep your alphabet song and your condescension to yourself. Your logics has shown to be so flawed that it’s not even amusing. Also, your initial assumption which you base your entire argument on is that the Temple was built by Orthodox Jews. This is definitely and non-arguably incorrect as the Orthodox movement has only been around for less than 300 years.
    Besides, your assumptions regarding Canonic law (the law of the Roman Catholic Church as laid out in the Codex Iuris Canonici) and its execution are also pretty off base just as your analogies are. The police of a democratic state would not remove somebody from a service at a Catholic Church on grounds of that person singing charismatic songs or being dressed like a Roman Catholic priest. Cases of where the Church pressed charges against people who had disrupted a religious service have always been way more severe than that, and those were violent intruders into somebody else’s religious service and never groups among themselves and on their own performing a service not in conflict with Canonic law yet not part of common custom.
    There is a world of a difference in that.

  • my assumption is nothing of the sort..as i said previously..it is a symbol of that time and tradtion,it doesn’t matter what you decide to call it, it is the established tradtion of the place that is the point in question, before orthodox this would not even have been an issue because there would not have been any need for an orthodox movement..it is a matter of people’s established customs and norms and what is appropriate in places of religious significance…my anaolgies are not at all flawed…they are just focusing on different aspects which you just plain don’t like…perhaps because they hit a note….i do happen to live in a democracy and i know that if someone is disturbing the peace that they would be escorted off the premises if someone felt offended enough to put in a complaint, don’t need a diploma to tell me that…furthermore..even going by your logic of only 300 years it is a lot longer than the short time that the WOW have existed and as such deserves respect and consideration…Canonical law?…good grief!..i am talking about simple human values here, no need to get overly technical…i am sorry my logic fails your exacting standards…i didnt realise this was such an exclusive post..i will bother your pages no more…enjoy basking in the light of highly intelligent people and stroking your ego…