In 1988, women came to the Kotel [Jerusalem’s Western Wall] with a Torah and were greeted with curses and thrown chairs. Israel’s Supreme Court, in deference to halacha, told them that “the voice of the woman is lewd.”
Three years ago, the Israeli government called a truce: If women held off on praying aloud or with the Torah at the Wall, a Commission would find a way to accommodate all parties who want to pray at the Wall. The (all-male) panel met for months, in April issuing its astonishing recommendation: that women praying as a group be banished from the Wall altogether.
Disappointing, but not final: a second Commission will hear arguments on July 29 from the International Committee for Women of the Wall (ICWOW) and the first Commission.
What should emerge is a real compromise—a time sharing arrangement in the women’s section at the Kotel so that women who wish to can wear tallitot , read from the Torah, and pray aloud as a group. Such an arrangement has been assured at the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron for Jews and Arabs. Jewish women’s rights (and rites) at the Kotel should be no less important, says ICWOW.
Meanwhile, Israeli officials and their representatives in America seem not even to know of the Commission’s existence. The chief spokesman for the Minister of Religion says that he knows nothing about it. Likewise the Consulate in New York. What women? What Commission? What Wall?
Outraged, as we are? Send a tax-deductible check to help with legal fees: ICWOW, c/o Rabbi Helene Ferris, 215 Hessian Hills Rd., Croton, NY 10520.