Wall belongs to all

Wall belongs to all

Last month, this paper came out against the treatment of members of Women of the Wall, a monthly prayer group, largely comprised of Orthodox women, who meet at Jerusalem’s Western Wall to pray.
Specifically, we assailed the rousting and questioning by police of Nofrat Frenkel, a WOW member who dared to wear a tallit at Judaism’s holiest site. Women of the Wall are frequently harassed, even verbally threatened, by haredi men who are offended by women praying freely at what they refer to as the Kotel.
Sadly, little has changed since then, as evidenced by the front-page photo in this week’s Chronicle, showing a young haredi Jew flinging garbage at women who came to the Western Wall to pray. Such a display is an example of a breakdown between religious values and religious practice. Aren’t there better ways to express opposition?
So we were heartened this week to read a public statement by Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism — the world’s largest movement of Jews — also opposing the treatment of Women of the Wall.
“I am deeply distressed by the campaign of intimidation against the Women of the Wall,” Yoffie said in his prepared statement. “Such intimidation offends the religious sensibilities of millions of Jews in Israel and throughout the world.”
As well it should.
Yoffie is a man who has the ear of Israel’s leaders — specifically Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, the Knesset and religious officials. That he is speaking out on this issue is significant.
But it’s not enough. As we said before, the Diaspora Jews should speak out against the treatment of Women of the Wall with as much of a unified voice as is possible. As Israeli leaders come to town, they should be made to address this question. They must know that Diaspora Jews will not tolerate the harassment of Jews at prayer — especially by other Jews.
No one is trying to tell the haredi how to worship. Their beliefs and practices should be as respected and defended as any other stream of Judaism. Our concern is that they are not respecting — and in many cases attacking — the beliefs and practices of other Jews.
As Yoffie said, “The Wall belongs to the entire Jewish people; it must not be used as a tool of division. We hope the day will come when all Jews will be permitted to pray at the Wall in accordance with their own religious customs, in an area allotted for that purpose.”