I really don't get this Women of the Wall thing. Is it a tasteless joke, meaningless silliness or an effort to cause aggravation and anger? What's the point of Women of the Wall's praying? What do they hope to achieve beyond provocation, media exposure, ratings and the intoxication of power ("the wall should be reliberated")?
- Sharansky's solution for the Wall will ruin the country's archaeological treasure, Israeli scholars fear
- The unknown compromise near the Western Wall
- The Kotel doesn't need liberating - we do
- Protesters hurl rocks in clashes over Women of the Wall prayer service at Kotel
- Vandals spray-paint inciting graffiti outside Jerusalem home of Women of the Wall activist
- U.S. Jewish leaders cautiously optimistic after meeting with Sharansky over Western Wall access
Do the Women of the Wall and their supporters promote the separation of religion and state? It doesn't seem so. And even if they do, like many others taking part in this struggle, the Women of the Wall confuse the separation of religion and state with the hatred of the orthodoxy, thus damaging a worthy cause. Women of the Wall's praying does nothing to promote the separation of religion and state.
Is their praying for purely spiritual reasons? One can assume it isn't. There's no point in arguing about halakha (Jewish law), but one must note that halakha does not forbid women from laying tefillin or wearing tzitzim – the fringes on a ceremonial garment.
According to halakha, women are exempt from a limited number of mitzvahs. The exemption of women from these commandments valid at a fixed time does not expropriate a mitzvah; they can do it if they wish, but as far as halakha is concerned, it's meaningless (because the duty to carry out a mitzvah is more rewarding to those who are ordered to do so).
Some women can interpret this exemption as chauvinistic, and other women would cite Samson Raphael Hirsch, who viewed the exemption as symbolic proof of their spiritual supremacy, as opposed to men who are commanded to prove their faith. The reasons for orthodox opposition to observing these mitzvahs in public is related to other halakhic terms such as marit ayin (doing something that may raise suspicions that one violated halakha) and the importance of tradition in halakha.
In any case, Jewish law, thought and morals oppose hurting people's feelings. The sages said: "Let your friend's honor be more dear to you than your own." The Women of the Wall do not hold dear the honor of the ultra-Orthodox. If the Women of the Wall wish to lay tefillin, cover themselves with a prayer shawl, wear a kippa and pray as they wish, there's absolutely no problem with that. They are allowed to do so at Robinson's Arch, where no one will bother them and they won't bother anyone.
But that isn't enough for the Women of the Wall. Without hurting the religious feelings of other believers, their actions, as far as they are concerned, are meaningless. If they claim that they pray for spiritual reasons alone, they are actually demonstrating the adage tovel vesheretz beyado (immersing in the ritual bath holding an impure insect).
Would those same Women of the Wall, undoubtedly Meretz members, be that eager to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims or Christians living in Israel? Of course not. The Women of the Wall wouldn't even consider trying to pray on the Temple Mount, for example.
Still, what they would never do to Christians or Muslims is fair game when it comes to the ultra-Orthodox. Why? Because now seems the right time to attack the Haredim on every front. Riding the wave of Haredi hatred spewed by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, as well as the people's general hatred of the weakened Haredi community, the Women of the Wall do nothing for spiritual purposes alone, nor do they spread love among the people of Israel. On the contrary.
Could the Women of the Wall get away with such actions in Europe's democracies? No. When members of the Ukrainian feminist movement FEMEN demonstrated nude against the pope at the Vatican, they were arrested. In any European country, even the most secular, provoking the feelings of believers isn't greeted with legal tolerance. In the case of Women of the Wall, the state only fans the flames.
On a personal note, I've always had a problem, mainly an aesthetic problem, with Judaism's progressive streams. I can understand people saying "It's also my religion and nobody owns it." As an individual, every person has the right to take or leave what he wants from the Jewish religion. Still, when Judaism is reformed again and again it loses its original character, and it damages the pillars of faith. Who needs that?
It reminds me of the only time I attended service at a progressive synagogue. I was 18, visiting my sister in Stockholm. I attended the Shabbat prayer at the city's largest synagogue. Everything about the synagogue seemed shocking to me; women and men sat together, and the prayer tunes were different, foreign, almost Christian. To top it all off, "Lecha Dodi" was accompanied by a pipe organ.