Sarah Silverman's Thanksgiving Topic: The Western Wall

Her guest, older sister Rabbi Susan Silverman, a member of Women of the Wall, notes progress but bemoans 'anti-democratic' and 'anti-Jewish' reality of religion and state in Israel

Comedian Sarah Silverman, right, talking with her sister Rabbi Susan Silverman on the Thanksgiving edition of her Hulu show, "I Love You, America."
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The controversial Western Wall got air time on Comedian Sarah Silverman's "I love you America" program as she brought on her older sister, Rabbi Susan Silverman, who was arrested at the Kotel three years ago for wearing religious garb, as her Thanksgiving guest.

"Women of the Wall are women who go praying at the Western Wall, which is a holy site in Jerusalem," said Rabbi Silverman, a Jerusalem resident and member of the group. "And the law was that women can't dress in what is traditionally men's garb like a prayer shawl and tefillin, which is translated as phylacteries but if you don't know what tefillin is, you probably don't know what phylacteries are."

According to Silverman, "when you make any kind of religious interpretation of civil law, then it becomes fascism, essentially." She stressed, "It becomes a religious fascism."

Rabbi Silverman said that since that time "the courts have been on our side, very much so, and now you can't be arrested for any of that." However, "it is still a political game," she noted. "I mean, the reality is that the ultra-Orthodox Rabbinate still runs all the holy sites and it's in charge of life cycle events in Israel and that's hugely, hugely problematic," said Silverman. "It's anti-democratic and I think it's anti-Jewish."

Susan's description of the situation at the Wall, which is at the center of a new controversy between Israel and Diaspora Jewry over the government's retreat from a compromise deal to allow non-Orthodox streams of Jewry more access to it, prompted Sarah's memory of her first trip to the Jewish homeland.

"I remember when I first went to Israel and people said, 'You're gonna feel so connected,' and blah-biddy-blah," she recalled. "And it's like and I know it's a special place for you and I don't want to s**t on that, but it is funny because you walk around and it's like this is where Jesus wiped his brow, and this is where blah, blah, and you're like Oh my God, but at the same time there's Doritos, empty Doritos bags on the ground, litter everywhere. It's so bizarre."

Then the comedian described her visit to the Jewish holy site in Jerusalem.

"And then when you go to the Western Wall, or the Wailing Wall, same thing, right? There's like this much space for men, and this much space for women," she said. "My reaction wasn't this is amazing, it was f**k you. And then you write a little message to put in the wall and I put, 'No more religion.'" Looking at her sister, she immediately added, "I love you, though!"