Thursday, December 4, 2014

Women of the Wall: Can Women pray at the Kotel?

Kotel 1979
I have been to Israel many times and the place I always return and visit is the Kotel, the Western Wall.  There is something spiritual and you could say there is something in the air.  Physically the Kotel has changed since the first time I was there in 1973 for a Bat Mitzvah trip.  In fact the archeological finds are so impressive they are a NOT to be missed part of any trip to Israel. Even when I have been to Israel for business it is not really a trip until I visit the Kotel.  The last 2 times I have been I have also been able to put notes from my students in the wall.  It never fails to move me and I can't wait until I can go back.

Kotel 1968
When my parents first visited Israel in February 1968 (6 months after the 6 day war in June 1967) and went to the Kotel it was not as it is today.  The war and ripped through this area and you could see the bullet holes, some of which are still evident today as you enter the old city.  These are bullet holes from both 1948 and 1967.  From 1967 until today there are two sections at the Kotel, one for men and one for women.  There is a discreet separation between the men's and women's side and the men's side has always been bigger.

Jews have been in Jerusalem since the time of the Bible.  In fact at certain times there has been no separation between the sexes.  In Israel since the only State recognized Judaism is Orthodox, women are not allowed to read Torah at the Kotel, wear a tallit, (unless it looks like a shawl) and pray like the men are allowed to pray.  

Hotel between 1900-1920, Men and Women together

This Sunday at Lakeside we will be discussing Women of the Wall and here is there mission statement:  
As Women of the Wall, our central mission is to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.
Over the past few years the arguments and legalities around the Kotel have intensified with regards to letting women pray at the Kotel.  There are many other political issues as well regarding the Temple mount but we will be focusing on the Women of the Wall.  I hope that you can join on us this Sunday, December 7 at 10:30 am for a good discussion on this lively topic.

From the song: Jerusalem of Gold by Naomi Shemir:

The mountain air is clear as wine
And the scent of pines
Is carried on the breeze of twilight
With the sound of bells.

And in the slumber of tree and stone
Captured in her dream
The city that sits solitary
And in its midst is a wall.

Jerusalem of gold, and of bronze, and of light
Behold I am a violin for all your songs. 
English Translation from the Hebrew