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Clutching¬†smuggled Torah scrolls, dozens of feminist¬†activists¬†approached¬†the Western Wall, wrapping¬†themselves in bright adoration shawls and chanting¬†passages from the Jewish Bible.
Their affectation of allegiance was met by ultra-religious hecklers who denounced¬†them as heretics and prostitutes. “You can’t change the Torah!” one shouted. “Get out of here!” Another ripped up a adoration book acclimated by the feminist group, Women of the Wall.
Last month’s adoration action was allotment of a long-running attempt over adoration at Judaism’s best important crusade armpit that pits Israel’s Orthodox religious establishment, which wants to advocate a traditionalist ban on women arch adoration services, adjoin the Women of the Bank and advanced Jewish denominations that appetite the armpit opened up to autonomous and pluralist prayer.
“It’s my appropriate to adjudge how I adjure in my country,” said Tammy Gottlieb, 32, a Women of the Bank lath member, as she rode in a van abounding of activists to the angelic armpit in Jerusalem’s Old City.
In¬†recent months, tensions over women’s¬†prayer accept been escalating, and a¬†compromise aimed at¬†ending the altercation has stalled. Beneath the¬†deal accustomed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet in January, Women of the Bank and advanced Jewish denominations would be accustomed a new adoration amplitude at a adjacent atom forth the Western Wall. However,¬†the government hasn’t started¬†implementing¬†the accommodation and ultra-Orthodox parties argue it.
“It’s like if a Muslim came to the Al Aqsa Mosque¬†and capital to access afterwards demography their shoes off. Would they let him?” asked¬†Haim Rabinowitz, an abettor to Rabbi Yisrael Eichler,¬†a administrator from the ultra-religious United Torah Judaism party, apropos to the Islamic¬†holy armpit aloft the Western Wall. “There are rules, and there’s religious law.¬†In Judaism, there’s no such affair as face-lifting or reform. There are no compromises.”
An Orthodox Jewish man yells at an woman advocating autonomous adoration at the Western Bank in Jerusalem’s Old City on June 16. (Gali Tibbon / AFP/Getty Images)
That is not the position taken by the Ameliorate and Conservative wings of Judaism, which are abundant stronger in the United States than in Israel. As a result, the accommodation action at the Western Wall¬†is abrasive the¬†longstanding accord amid Israel’s government and advanced swaths¬†of North American Jewry.
The altercation over women’s¬†prayer at Western Wall, accepted in Hebrew as the Kotel,¬†has confused relations amid Netanyahu ‚ÄĒ¬†who relies on ultra-Orthodox religious parties to¬†stabilize his coalition¬†‚ÄĒ¬†and religiously advanced Diaspora Jews who accuse that¬†Israel’s conservative¬†government is adverse religious freedom¬†at¬†Judaism’s¬†most admired adoration site.
“In North America, there’s a accomplished bearing of women who accept been advancing as rabbis,”¬†said Steven Wernick, arch controlling of the alignment representing¬†Conservative congregations,¬†as the women’s singing echoed throughout the plaza. “They appear here¬†and there’s no abode in the Jewish citizenry for us to adoration at our holiest armpit according to the community that we’ve developed.”
The Jewish Agency, a nonprofit accumulation announcement Jewish clearing to Israel, which helped agent the Western Bank accommodation afterwards three years of negotiations, warned in a account that abortion to accommodate a amplitude for pluralist adoration at the bank would accept “far-reaching implications” for Israel-Diaspora ties.
Shira Pruce, a backer for Women of the Wall
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Tensions over adoration and accompaniment in Israel amplitude aback to the country’s founding, when¬†Israel’s civil founders promised to adjourn to Orthodox Jewish leaders on¬†public Jewish ritual, marriage¬†and Sabbath observance¬†in adjustment to defended their abutment for the new state.
The altercation over the Western Bank is one of several tinderboxes for¬†Israel’s Orthodox enactment and the added advanced denominations. The Israeli assembly anesthetized legislation to ban non-Orthodox from assuming about-face ceremonies in state-run ritual bathhouses.
The wall, with its behemothic bean blocks, is the aftermost balance of the Jewish Temple complex¬†built two millenniums¬†ago and¬†has admiring Jewish pilgrims for centuries. Afterwards Israel baffled East Jerusalem¬†in 1967, it austere out a sprawling capital that was abstracted off for gender-segregated worship, and¬†the government handed over administration of the site¬†to Israel’s ultra-Orthodox religious authorities, who run the capital as if it were a synagogue.
The changeable activists, who accept been captivation casework at the wall¬†on a account base back 1988, accept pursued several cloister petitions arduous the ultra-Orthodox ascendancy the site.
In their gatherings, women lead¬†prayers, blanket themselves with atramentous phylacteries¬†and carol passages from the Torah scrolls ‚ÄĒ¬†roles aloof for men beneath austere readings¬†of Jewish religious¬†law.¬†They are¬†often met by disorderly crowds of ultra-religious acceptance and teams of badge who accept approved to block or bark bottomward the adoration service.
“Women of the Bank is artlessly reminding us that the bank doesn’t accord to any one articulation of the Jewish people,”¬†said Yossi Klein Halevi, an American Israeli columnist and a adolescent at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. “This is a action for Zionism:¬†Is the accompaniment activity to be an announcement of Zionism, with its¬†ideology of Jewish peoplehood, or is it activity to be run beneath ultra-Orthodox blackmail, and acquiesce a boyhood of apple Jewry¬†to exclude a majority.”
In June, the controlling administrator of¬†Women of the Wall, Lesley Sachs, was bedfast by badge for hours for bringing a Torah annal into the Western Bank plaza.
“That was an escalation,”¬†said Shira Pruce, ¬†a backer for the organization. “People are up in arms: They can’t accept that in Israel of all places, a woman is actuality arrested for captivation a Torah. If the acting plan is arresting women at the Kotel,¬†this affair is activity to get abundant hotter.”
One day aftermost month,¬†Women of the Bank activists were arrested by aegis guards to see if they were aggravating to bastard banned ritual altar into the women’s area of the plaza. Wearing stickers account “equal” and “love thy acquaintance as thyself,” the women captivated a bat account commemoration for 13-year-old¬†Milwaukee built-in Frannie Turner application a banned Torah annal and a ritual canopy.
The service¬†passed almost quietly, with¬†no absolute confrontations amid the women and ultra-Orthodox demonstrators, and no one bedfast by police.
“The adventitious to accompany Women of the Bank and beef adjoin ancient cerebration is an honor,”¬†wrote Claire Turner, Frannie’s mother, in an email afterwards the ceremony. “It was joyous, supportive, and additionally actual spiritual.”
But Shulamit Tsolani, a 59-year-old nursery academy abecedary from Jerusalem, surveyed the adoration account in disgust.
“When we acclimated to appear here, we acquainted the asceticism of the place. They are ruining it,”¬†she said. “A woman is not accustomed to backpack a Torah scroll. They don’t accept what we accept in.”
Mitnick is a appropriate correspondent.