A dispatch from the Women of the Wall’s 25th anniversary prayer service
Israeli women, some wearing prayer shawls, pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on November 4, 2013. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)
“Did they pay you to come here?” one wide-eyed Orthodox girl asked us, curious about the women in tallitot all around her.
No one had to pay the hundreds of women—including me—who sang and celebrated this morning at the Kotel for Women of the Wall’s 25th anniversary prayer service. Our group stretched through much of the women’s section and spilled onto the plaza on a clear morning that was filled with unexpected light, both from what happened and what didn’t.
I’ll confess I didn’t sleep a second last night, imagining the possibilities. A senior Haredi rabbi had asked ultra-Orthodox girls to come early and fill up the women’s section. Would they scream at us, curse, or spit, as has happened at previous Women of the Wall services? Would men lob eggs in our direction from the other side of the mechitza?Good for the hair or not, I wasn’t thrilled about the thought of viscous substances landing on me at a holy place.
None of that materialized. A small row of men shouted to make their displeasure known when we first arrived. (In a lovely bit of irony, we were singing “Hineh Ma Tov,” a song about unity.) It was also hard to miss the morning prayers blasted from the men’s side over a loudspeaker aimed in our direction. But the women, who had no microphones, just sang their own prayers louder. According to Haaretz, police forced the men to shut off the loudspeakers; by the time the Women of the Wall service officially began, it was quiet. I also heard that police set up a barricade next to the mechitza on the men’s side to put some distance between protestors and those being protested. If so, it must have worked. Even the occasional whistle meant to disrupt us seemed half-hearted.
That left room for the joys. Among them:
* Every woman around me had a story about what brought her to this service. One woman wore a tallit belonging to a friend who had hoped to be here but passed away just weeks ago. Another said kaddish during the service for her feminist mother, on the anniversary of her death. Another had names inscribed on her tailit of those who supported this journey and were here in spirit.
* A few very religious girls and women not part of our group prayed with us or asked questions. To be sure, most of the ultra-Orthodox worshipped next to the Kotel, and female soldiers stood between us and them to protect everyone. But a few newcomers joined us, including the teen who said she was sorry about what Women of the Wall had endured here in the past. As for the girl who asked my rabbi if we had received payment to hold a protest service, I’m idealistic enough to believe that questions and conversation can lead to change for the better.
* Four women raised Torah mantles because we couldn’t bring a Torah into the women’s section. One was Rabbi Laura Geller, ordained more than 30 years ago as the third female rabbi in the Reform movement and active with Women of the Wall since its inception. Once, she had her tallit confiscated at the Wall. This morning, she lifted a velvet Torah mantle like a banner of hope.
*Young girls in the group were blessed with a tallit held high above them. Someday, they might have their bat mitzvahs at the Wall.
After the service, many of the Americans gathered at Robinson’s Arch, the site proposed for a new egalitarian space at the Western Wall. We prayed for peace and acknowledged how far we had come for this spiritual moment. I thought back to a new prayer I’d just learned at the Kotel:
“May no woman or girl be silenced ever again among Your people Israel or in all the world.”
Menachem Begin in December 1942 wearing the Polish Army uniform of Gen. Anders’ forces with his wife Aliza and David Yutan; (back row) Moshe Stein and Israel Epstein
(photo credit: JABOTINSKY ARCHIVES)
During the inauguration of a memorial to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park on January 24, 2020, before the climax of Holocaust remembrance events at which Russian President Vladimir Putin was given a central platform, we were stunned to hear a rendition of The Blue Kerchief (Siniy
Giant figures are seen during the 87th carnival parade of Aalst February 15, 2015
The annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium, is expected to take place on Sunday with even more antisemitic elements than in previous years.
Aalst’s organizers have sold hundreds of “rabbi kits” for revelers to dress as hassidic Jews in the carnival’s parade. The kit includes oversized noses, sidelocks (peyot) and black hats. The organizers plan to bring back floats similar to the one displayed in 2019 featuring oversized dolls of Jews, with rats on their shoulders, holding banknotes.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in the southern Italian coastal city of Bari, Italy February 23, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli.
Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
Palestinians walk past a shop selling fruits in Ramallah, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached an agreement to end a five-month long trade dispute, officials said on Thursday.
The dispute, which opened a new front in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, began in September when the PA announced a boycott of Israel calves. The PA exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank under interim peace deals.
Antisemitic caricatures on display at the annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium. Photo: Raphael Ahren via Twitter.
Disturbing images emerged on Sunday of the annual carnival at Aalst, Belgium, showing an astounding number of antisemitic themes, costumes, displays and statements.
Israeli journalist Raphael Ahren documented people dressed as caricatures of Orthodox Jews, a fake “wailing wall” attacking critics of the parade, blatantly antisemitic characters and puppets wearing traditional Jewish clothes and sporting huge noses.
The stench of anti-Semitism always hovers over Switzerland’s Lake Geneva when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is meeting there. The foul emanations reached a new nadir last week with UNHRC’s publication of a “database” of companies doing business in the disputed territories in Israel.
Following the publication of the list, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, deputy director for advocacy of NGO Human Rights Watch, stated, “The long-awaited release of the U.N. settlement business database should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements [sic] is to aid in the commission of war crimes.”
One of the many things that annoys me about politicians is how sure they are of themselves. Everything is black and white. Every idea is good or bad. Take globalism, for example. You either love it or hate it. It works or it doesn’t.
Another thing that annoys me is how so much of a politician’s life revolves around power: Do everything you can to get it, and everything you can to keep it.
Why am I ranting? Because, while our politicians have been consumed with power and the media with the fights over power, a threat to our nation has been virtually ignored.
Blue and White Party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid are establishing their diplomatic credentials in the immediate run-up to Israel’s March 2 election with an insult to a U.S. administration that has arguably provided Israel with more diplomatic gains than any previous administration.
The Times of Israel reported that at a campaign stop in front of English-speaking Israelis, Gantz accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “of neglecting bipartisan ties in favor of exclusive support from U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” under the headline “Gantz pledges to mend ties with U.S. Democrats if elected.”
Bipartisanship was in short supply at the State of the Union address earlier this month—with one notable exception.
Nancy Pelosi had been looking dyspeptic, shuffling the papers she would later rip to shreds, when President Donald Trump reminded his audience that “the United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.”
Suddenly, the House Speaker applauded. Trump then introduced “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela: Juan Guaidó.”
The law professor Alan Dershowitz has thrown a legal hand-grenade into America’s political civil war by claiming to have evidence that former President Barack Obama “personally asked” the FBI to investigate someone “on behalf” of Obama’s “close ally,” billionaire financier George Soros.
He made his cryptic remark in an interview defending U.S. President Donald Trump against claims he interfered in the prosecution of his former adviser, Roger Stone.