This was started yesterday, finished this morning...
I first heard about Women of the Wall (Nashot HaKotel) soon after getting back to the states last summer. I've been eager all year to join their Rosh Chodesh services. Early this morning, my first Rosh Chodesh in Israel this year, I joined dozens of women in the women's section at the Kotel; a number of men were with us in solidarity, behind us, and in the men's section.
I did not know what to expect. I've been to the Kotel before, many times; sometimes I feel a powerful connection, sometimes I feel hardly anything at all. Today I felt connected, but it wasn't to the Wall itself. I felt connected to this group of women (and men), most of whom I'd never met before, and their devotion to protecting the religious rights of the NON-Haredim here in Israel. The Haredim don't hold a monopoly on Jewish practice, though they sure like to think that they do. Nashot HaKotel is working to create pace where everyone can express their Judaism as they choose regardless of movement affiliation, or lack thereof.
The truth is, and this is probably not the best thing to admit in this forum, but so be it... I'm all about honesty... I don't always relate to prayer. I'm often very distanced from it. I have my reasons, and they aren't really necessary to share here. But something about yesterday, being with this group... the texts took on a whole new meaning. A friend wrote about Psalm 150 in her account of her experience with Women of the Wall, and I would say that it was a pivotal moment for me as well. Here we were being screamed at from the men's side of the Kotel, being shushed by our police guards in front of us on the women's side, and we get to a text:
"Halleluya! ... Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise God in His mighty firmament! Praise God for His mighty acts; Praise God according to His excellent greatness! Praise God with the sound of the trumpet; Praise God with the lute and harp! Praise God with the timbrel and dance; Praise God with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise God with loud cymbals; Praise God with clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!"
Those who know me well might be able to intuit some of my usual issues with this text, but it took on a whole new meaning in the face of discrimination, being yelled at for reciting it out loud, in a group of women. Part of me wanted to look over, see precisely what was happening to my left, but I was SO FOCUSED that I never did. I brought my camera, in case I wasn't feeling so connected and decided to document the experience instead... it didn't come out of my bag. As our guards were trying to quiet us, I, for one, did not lower my voice. And I won't...
Photo credit: IRAC
Never in my life, until this morning, have I felt discriminated against for being Jewish. Sure, I was warned to not make a huge deal about Judaism while traveling in Egypt last summer, but it never ended up being an issue. This morning? We were yelled at, called all sorts of derogatory names, and, had there not been guards, likely could have been physically attacked, had chairs thrown at us, who knows? The irony? It's a group of JEWS doing the discriminating. I can walk through the Arab Quarter of the Old City with no problem whatsoever, but I cannot join a group of women in prayer at the Wall without other JEWS hurling epithets at the group?
I felt unsafe as a Jew because of other Jews. How is that ok?
Further, the director of Nashot HaKotel was arrested simply for carrying the Torah out of the women's section, where the Supreme Court deemed it illegal for women to read from the scroll, to where we ARE allowed to read. Arrested and carted away, Torah in her lap. I could go on for pages about this... it's just... sickening.
In other news, orientation began last night, and continues in about 30 minutes. I need to make breakfast and lunch and get a move on to school. (Oh, how many ways do I love living just two minutes away?!) It's really surreal that this is actually happening, the official beginnings...