When praying is dangerous, state must step in
This paper has previously taken up the cause of Women at the Wall, a group of pious Jewish women who want nothing more than to peacefully worship their God at Judaism’s holiest site — the Western Wall.
It’s a shame we must continue to make their case, but vitriolic attacks by many haredi Jews in Israel (certainly, not all) seem to know no limit.
Check out this disgusting incident — and disgusting is the only word for it — which you can read more about in this week’s Chronicle on page 11:
While Women of the Wall were observing the most recent Rosh Chodesh — new month — at the wall, numerous haredi worshippers, assailed the group, hurling insults, the worse by far being “Nazis.”
Their crime: They were apparently praying too loud, and they were wearing tallitot.
Stop and think about this for a second. They’re Jewish women — Orthodox Jewish women — they are devoted to their faith; they engage in the purely peaceful act of Jewish worship.
And they were called “Nazis.”
Were it not for the fact that the haredi community exercises far too much control over religious life in Israel, we might be prepared to write this off as the rantings of an intolerant segment of Israelis.
But this verbal assault comes too soon after arsonists attacked a Conservative synagogue in the southern Israeli community of Arad.
The fire at the Shira Hadasha synagogue was set Monday night, Feb. 8. The flames scorched the outside of the building, but were fortunately extinguished before they reached the interior.
It’s the second time in little more than a year that Shira Hadasha, the only non-Orthodox synagogue in Arad, has been vandalized, and while police have yet to make an arrest, this act, as well as the attacks on Women at the Wall, speaks to a growing intolerance in Israel for Jewish worship in any way other than the fervently Orthodox fashion.
The current and previous Israeli governments have been reluctant to confront the haredi leaders, fearing their political parties will withhold support from the governing coalitions. So for the sake of political expediency, non-Orthodox Jews in Israel are increasingly made to feel at risk when they pray.
This cannot continue. If the Israeli government will not make the Jewish state safe for all expressions of Jewish worship, then Diaspora Jews must demonstrate that we have some influence of our own. Hopefully, it won’t come to that, but all Jews must be free to worship in peace in Israel. On that right, there can be no compromise.