What’s wrong with using Robinson’s Arch (RA), a small area separated from the main Kotel plaza? The notion that Jewish women, who are perfectly within their rights to pray as they wish, must accept a separate and unequal space is untenable. Yet Rabbi Rabinowitz, the government-paid administrator of the Kotel, insists that RA (considered “the back of the bus” by all reasonable measures) is good enough for non-Orthodox Jews. The fact that ultra-Orthodox men won’t pray there themselves, not even one hour a month so WOW can pray at main section of the Kotel, speaks volumes.
On Sunday August 19th, 2012 in Jerusalem, four more women were arrested at the Kotel, the Western Wall, considered the holiest site in Judaism, for reportedly engaging in behavior that could lead to “endangering the public peace and for wearing a prayer shawl.” They were praying.
When I returned from a six-month kibbutz experience in Israel in 1974, I felt the “culture shock” of reentry into American society. What surprised me most was that I suddenly became aware of women driving cars, and that it seemed strange. You see, on the kibbutz where I had been living, only one woman was given permission to drive the kibbutz car, and she was considered a little odd. I had become acculturated to the gender bias of that time and place. Of course, the Israel I knew has progressed in many ways around this issue, but the struggle continues.
In case you haven’t see this yet, David Grossman, award-winning Israeli author and peace activist, whose son Uri was killed in the 2006 war in Lebanon, wrote this response to the flotilla attack that happened May 30, 2010:
George Stephanopoulos is at it again. The earth is bleeding, 5,000 feet below
the water’s surface of
the Gulf of Mexico,
an opened artery flowing, and
without the surgeon’s deft suture,
While America wakes to
Sunday morning “This Week,”
where it’s all about PR,
who looks good and who
looks bad in Washington,
what we should think about the
ineffectual response, wasting time
talking about the time wasted and
how politicians could look better. I change channels and hear
there’s no one to interview,
because not enough
sorry enough looking
real people have yet been affected, so
they have only the pelicans to poll,
never considering they might be
too tarred to respond;
We no longer need canaries. Planet earth is in the emergency room,
and we have no life support. George ends with photos
of fallen soldiers, and “Oh-My-God”
music— the cue to honor,
as we ponder the message
over coffee and cereal.
I am gratified to share this announcement with all of you, sent by the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Community Relations Council, The Jewish Federation of the East Bay and the Northern California Board of Rabbis on May 4, 2010. We appreciate their swift condemnation of the attack on Rabbi Michael Lerner and Rabbi Debora Kohn Lerner’s home in Berkeley, California yesterday. Obviously, many people on all sides of the political spectrum are deeply affected by what happened. “We unequivocally condemn criminal acts perpetrated against Rabbi Lerner’s home. Political disagreements must be resolved in a civil manner, and not by resorting to violence.
“Just don’t get arrested,” my mother repeatedly warned me. “You might hurt your career as a doctor.” She had lived through the McCarthy era and knew how easily careers ended. Heeding her words, I kept a low profile at anti-Vietnam war demonstrations. In 1981 I finished medical school and began my training in Pediatrics.
Last week I received one of those annoying phone calls, the kind I figure comes from some mega-complex of phone banks, probably from the plains of Nebraska. Because the caller ID showed an area code with which I was unfamiliar, I hesitantly picked up the phone and heard that split second of dead space, letting me know I was going to be solicited for money. I mentally kicked myself for this moment of trust. Imagine my relief when I found myself talking to a woman calling on behalf of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), an organization to which I had actually donated money. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to tell her about my frustration with a do-nothing Democratic White House and congress regarding financial industry regulation and true health care reform.
Polarizing behavior in Israel–it’s disturbing. Very disturbing. I’ve gotten a slew of emails and forwarded posts this week about the sad state of disrespectful discourse towards righteous Jewish progressive nongovernmental organizations in Israel. For those who don’t yet know, Professor Naomi Chazan, president of the New Israel Fund (NIF), an illustrious non-profit group whose mission since 1979 has been to fight for social justice and equality for all Israelis, was personally demonized with a full-page cartoon ad taken out by a group calling themselves “Im Tirzu,” (“If you will it.”) The cartoon depicted Professor Chazan wearing a horn, reminiscent of Nazi era anti-Semitic propaganda. In creating this ad, this organization has delegitimized itself and its theoretical message.