Women of the Wall: A Possible Solution To Endless Fighting

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Two children, a brother and sister, are fighting: calling each other names, bringing each other to tears. Their father stays out of it at first. He’s hoping his kids will work things out on their own, but they don’t. The bickering escalates until the father finally throws them into a time-out. He wants his children to think about what they’ve done. He wants them to find a way to get along as they suffer through the punishment together.

The siblings are miserable as they watch the other kids playing outside on such a bright, beautiful day. Their room is sweltering, and they’re getting hungry. But they continue to fight and occasionally call out to their father, begging him to let them go. Finally, the father notices that the room is quiet, so he goes upstairs to check in, hoping that his children finally figured out how to get past their differences. But just as he opens the door, the son and daughter start fighting all over again, this time over a toy. Who had it first, how it should be used, whose fault it is that they’re fighting again. The father is crushed as he realizes that his children have learned absolutely nothing. All that time and pain and they learned absolutely nothing.

THIS sums up Jewish history for the last two millennia leading up to the current controversy over the Women of the Wall. Two thousand years ago, our people were put into a “time-out” for bad behavior. We were thrown out of the land of Israel, our Temple destroyed. We were scattered to every corner of the earth as we sat out our punishment. What was our crime? Baseless hatred towards our fellow Jew, our “brother.” For two thousand years, through expulsions, pogroms, Inquisitions, the Holocaust, Soviet Russia, our people cried out to the Almighty for a chance to come home.

And then something miraculous happened: forty-six years ago last week (on Yom Yerushalayim) our prayers were answered. On June 5, 1967, the Jewish people gained back sovereignty over Jerusalem for the first time in two thousand years and were suddenly free to stand and pray and weep only steps from the Holy of Holies. Our people could finally return to the site of the chorban (the destruction of the Holy Temple) that landed us into our long and bitter exile. And Jews from all over the planet ingathered in what seemed like age old prophecies being fulfilled. It wasn’t geula (the redemption), but it certainly felt like a beginning of a redemption. Our Father had “opened the door.” He wanted to see if we had learned our lesson. Would we finally treat one another with proper respect?

If there’s ANY place in the world that should remind us of how we ought to behave towards one another, the Western Wall should be THE place. Gazing upon the destruction should immediately remind us of why we’re still in galus (exile). Yet the site of the destruction is where we’ve seen some of the nastiest displays of baseless hatred in quite some time. What took place last week, the DAY after Yom Yerushalayim, at the Western wall was inexcusable and the whole world sat back and watched Jew fighting Jew.

I’d like to speak to people on both sides, to try to find a common ground, because God knows we need to find it. I will start by saying that I believe that on both sides there are sincere people and on both sides there are people acting for the wrong reasons, so I’ll speak only about the sincere. To the traditionalists – to the ones who can’t imagine any prayer happening at the Western Wall that in any way deviates from Jewish law or tradition – I will say this: I believe that what motivates the sincere among the Women of the Wall is the pursuit of kavod habriyos - making sure that every human being is treated with dignity and respect. Now of course those in favor of traditional prayer don’t believe that their method of praying is undignified to women. This group believes that men and women simply have different spiritual needs. So the two sides can agree to disagree on how to carry out the value of kavod habriyos, but the traditionalists should appreciate that their opponents are clinging to a value which they respect.

To the progressives who want a more liberal, egalitarian type of prayer, I will say this about the sincere ones fighting to only allow traditional prayer: for all the anti-Semites over the last three thousand years who have tried to destroy us, whether it was Pharaoh making us work on Shabbos, King Antiochus outlawing bris milah, or the KGB making Jewish observance punishable by death, for all our enemies who wanted to rip our Torah away from us and for all our ancestors who were willing to give up their lives in order to hold on to it, the traditionalists believe that this is part of that same fight. Of course the progressives don’t agree – these changes only enhance Judaism, they don’t destroy it – so they’ll have to agree to disagree as to what constitutes the Torah being uprooted, but the progressives should be able to appreciate the value that the sincere traditionalists are clinging to of not losing our Torah after we’ve fought for so long to hold on to it.

Even if we can appreciate the other side’s motivations a bit more, there’s still the practical matter of how that wall will be used. I am fearful that no solution will ever make everyone happy. The Women of the Wall (and their many supporters in the Diaspora) have protested for twenty-five years as the traditionalists held their ground, but now that the law has changed and the Women of the Wall will be able to pray as they want to, I believe the other side will now be the ones protesting and not letting go.

And so I’d like to suggest a solution that everyone will hate, because at least everyone can all being unified in their hatred of my suggestion. I believe that the answer can be found with that brother and sister who are fighting over the toy. If two kids fought over the same toy, wouldn’t the best response be to take the toy away to salvage the relationship?

The Kotel has become a battle ground, it is bringing out the worst in us. It is no longer a protective wall that surrounds the Temple, it now feels more like a BARRIER that will prevent us from rebuilding the Temple. There is no special commandment to pray “at” the wall. But there is a commandment to pursue peace and love your neighbor as yourself. Perhaps we were given the wall back as a test, to see if we’d tear each other down for a piece of it, or find a way to get along.

There is a debate as to whether there is kedusha in those stones, but everyone agrees that there is kedusha in every Jew, yet we are TRAMPLING one another to claim a piece of that wall. What if we cared more about being kind than being right? What if we all just agreed to back off from the wall and only use it for personal prayer? What if we agreed that it’s not worth the fighting and the anger? What if every time we saw those stones we felt a loss and were reminded that we’ll remain in a state of destruction until we love one another more than we hate opinions that differ from ours?

What if…

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Allison is the Founder and Director of Jew in the City. Please find her full bio here.

Comments

  1. Natalia says:

    Great article but most importantly, great attitude!

    And also you are very funny and I love your videos!

  2. Susan Barnes says:

    It’s not clear to me what you mean by “personal prayer.” If you mean nobody, either men or women, will be allowed to pray out loud with others, but will only be allowed to pray silently and individually, then I don’t see how that solves the problem. There will still be women who want to pray with tallitot, and there will still be men who will protest and say the women should not be allowed to wear them.

    Also, your analogy doesn’t fit the situation. It is written as if only one person can pray at the Kotel at a time (as only one child at a time can play with a toy). However, lots of people pray at the Kotel at the same time, every day. There is no reason why the Women of the Wall can’t pray with tallitot and teffilin at the same time that other women pray there without them. There is no reason why both groups can’t pray at the Kotel at the same time. It’s just that one group wants to exclude the other. And it’s not the WoW members who are trying to exclude anyone.

    • Allison Allison says:

      Thanks for your comment, Susan. Let me clarify what I meant by “personal prayer.” I mean no “formal” prayers, so minyanim, no tallisim or tefillin for anyone. Just standing at the wall as an individual and speaking to God from the heart. So it would not require any ritual and everyone would be treated the same.

      Also, I believe that the analogy does fit the situation because if the progressive groups get their way and have non-traditional prayer it will be painful to a certain segment of the Jewish population. Not out of women hating, but as I explained, fear of the Torah being uprooted.

      I’m not asking you to understand why they would equate non-traditional prayer with that fear, but just to understand that preservation of Torah is a value all Jews should be able to come on board with.

      • Susan Barnes says:

        Thanks for the clarification. Your solution intrigues me. If no prayer groups are allowed on either side – no bar mitzvah ceremonies, no reading from the sefer torah, etc. – then it seems to me the men would be giving up much more than the women. I’m afraid that even if the women agreed to it, there’s no way the men would. Talk about uprooting the Torah! If they think a woman in a tallit is uprooting the Torah, then for sure they’d say disallowing men from reading the sefer torah is uprooting it.

        • Allison Allison says:

          I say we all be united in our misery! When we go to separate buildings and when we’re in our private homes, we can live in our own way and not offend anyone else. As I said, there’s no “mitzvah” to have a minyan or a bar mitzvah at that wall. Is is a FAR greater value to the Jewish people to simply say we love each other more than we hate our differences.

  3. It should be noted that the chillul Hashem that was made at the Kotel on Rosh Chodesh was made by a small group of people. The crowds of women who gathered there to daven, who came in support of Women FOR the Wall, were there to peacefully daven for the unity of Klal Yisrael. Here is an account of what really happened written by the founder of Women FOR the Wall, Ronit Peskin: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/massive-prayer-rally-at-the-kotel-today-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/

    • Allison Allison says:

      Thanks for your comment, Gail, but with the way the media reported it, that was all they cared about, so if thousands act peacefully but only the trouble makers get attention then it’s still a huge chillul Hashem. Besides – this fighting will never end if it’s all about the wall. Let’s just let go!

  4. As an orthodox woman I am appalled at the way the Women of he Wall have been treated, and I was only proud when a modern orthodox judge ruled in their favor.

    I must take umbrage with your supposed “understanding” of the Haredi side. The comparison between non-Jewish anti-Semites and sincere Jews who have a different way of showing their love for their heritage is absurd and quite frankly insulting. I don’t think you bridge any divides with such a comparison.

    • Allison Allison says:

      Thanks for your comment, Lauren. I believe that all good people – across the spectrum – are appalled at the way the Women of the Wall were treated by a small segment of men last week.

      In terms of my understanding of the “Haredi” side – I never called that side “Haredi.” The traditionalists include many Modern Orthodox and even secular but traditional Israelis. But in terms of my “comparing” progressive Jews to anti-Semites – God forbid! I did not mean for ANYONE to read that line as a comparison. Just like I didn’t mean for anyone to think I was accusing traditionalists of misogyny despite the fact that progressives are fighting for kavod habriyos.

      What I DID mean to convey was that although more liberal Jews don’t view the system of halacha the same way as Orthodox Jews do, they can surely relate to the idea of all our people have gone through to preserve the Torah, almost always at the hands of anti-Semites. I wrote this as a call for unity – not to bad mouth my people!

  5. We can’t forget about the value of the prayers of the “traditionalists” and those who are not Orthodox but don not feel compelled to disturb the status quo. The tefillos are precious to HaShem and more so when recited with a minyan. While the fighting is terrible and is definitely 2 sided, the fact is that it only comes up when WOW come to daven there. Perhaps they can schedule times when they will be at the Kotel and anyone who is offended by their way of worshiping can stay home. The rest of the time, the prayers of thousands B’tzibbur can still go on. I am talking about minyanim 24/7, birkas kohanim on chol hamoed when there are 250,000 not-only-orthodox Jews in attendance, bar mitzvas and other celebrations.

    • Allison Allison says:

      Thanks for your comment, Chamie. I think we should just make the point that every sincere person who davens to Hashem has prayers that are precious to Hashem. In terms of a minyan being a preferable way to pray. It’s true it is, but no one said a minyan needs to happen at that exact spot. There are other places in the Old City where minyanim are constantly happening.

      Look – I do NOT believe that this is a perfect solution. It’s really not. But I think we could all feel a loss simultaneously something good could come out of it. I think we all need to show we’re willing to sacrifice something we love in the name of unity before Hashem, God forbid, takes it away from us.

  6. Why stop on taking away the toy….. an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure….. the parents would not be in this mess if they had just used birth control. Just as that thought is absurd, your solution is ludicrous. You do make a valid point though regarding why we lost the temple in the first place.

    • Allison Allison says:

      Thanks for your comment, Steven. I knew people would hate my suggestion! But please tell me, how else will the most committed to their cause on either side ever back down?

      When we behave badly enough, Hashem seems to punish us, i.e. we burned Morei Nevuchim, a little while later, anti-Semites were burning Gemaras. We throw stones at fellow Jews, then Arabs through stones at us.

      I’m afraid that if we don’t take the wall out of the equation to bring unity it could be taken away from us NOT on our terms!

  7. Matthew Jacobs says:

    I think that’s a great idea and (probably for exactly that reason) it has zero chance of happening.

    I think it’s really ironic that there are Jews who go to all this trouble to keep men and women separated, live in societies that are insular, and now in the one place they can’t possibly avoid women are being challenged. I think both sides in this debate feel victimized. One positive thing that I hope will come out of this is that there will finally be a more honest dialogue. Traditional Jews have every right to believe that men and women should pray separately, but they can’t ignore a large movement that believes otherwise and expect to avoid conflict indefinitely.

    Another positive side to the conflict is that sincere members of both sides really care about the future of Judaism!

  8. Nina Davidovich Litvak says:

    Another thoughtful, reasoned and articulate article from Jew in the City! Thank you Allison for all that you do on behalf of the Jewish people.

    Just one small note – there are some typos: (NASTIEST not nastiness, unified in THEIR hatred.) You are doing such important work, I don’t want your message to get diluted by easily avoidable errors.

    May you have a wonderful Shabbos!

  9. Your assumption that the Women of the Wall are only interested in “is the pursuit of kavod habriyos” is patently absurd and naive. They are “womens’ rights” activists; unhappy with their wrongly assumed lot in life. To attempt to pacify them, in ANY way, would be analogous to attempting to pacify a Yisroel who insisted on being treated like a Kohen. Face it: men and women ARE different, and have different roles in life. Not happy with your role? TOO BAD! The Creator makes no mistakes; He knows what He’s doing. If you disagree with Him, take it up with Him, not those of us who are fulfilling OUR roles as Prescribed in the Torah ( written AND oral!)

    • Allison Allison says:

      Thanks for your comment, Boomie, but here’s the thing. I understand their perspective because I grew up in the secular world. As I said – I wasn’t speaking for ALL WoW – I was speaking for the sincere among them and I honestly believe – because how I saw things – that men and women being treated differently was an affront to women. And I’m trying to find a place where we can stand on common ground. And we can ALL agree that people deserve dignity.

      The agreement stops there – I get it. They think Orthodox prayer is undignified to women, Orthodox don’t. But let’s at least appreciate that the intention for the sincere is coming from a good place.

      If you DON’T try to find common ground with your brothers, what do you THINK the future of our people will be? Do you not remember that we’re in a painful galus? Do you not remember that we have to find a way to love each other? BOTH sides need to stop worrying about how right and just their side is and put our PEOPLEHOOD first.

      Enough fighting!!

  10. Hi Allison! I really like your posts, and videos!! Keep them coming!

    But this post isn’t at all what I expected of you.
    ‘Women of the Wall’ and the like are a totally new and foreign thing to yiddishkeit. It’s an example of people looking for new ways in Judaism- as in the reform, and conservative movements, that were not satisfied with our age-old traditions, and wanted to ‘spice it up’ by adding and removing whatever they preferred. And I don’t think I have to elaborate by where these people are up to today’s days and how many of them still keep ANY mitzvohs at all.
    It says that you shouldn’t add to any mitzvah, because then you might subtract parts of it too.

    A woman has to remember HER specific role in Judaism,(and if I remember well you elaborated on this one in one of your posts) and stick to that.
    Any women looking for more ‘hisurarus’= warmth to a mitzvah; in her praying, should go visit a hospital. No need for shawls and the works.

    Thanks again!

    • Allison Allison says:

      Thanks for your comment, Faigie. I did my best to avoid condemning or condoning WoW in this piece for a very specific reason – I’m sick of fighting. The Orthodox can have Orthodox shuls and prayers as we see fit and the non-Orthodox live have their shuls as they see fit.

      I’m sick of fighting over these stones. There’s no mitzvah in that. There’s a mitzvah in v’ahavta l’reyecha k’mocha. This isn’t about my not believing in halacha and mesorah. It’s about saying this fight isn’t worth is – let’s all just back down.

      How the HECK else is this fight ever going to end?!!!

  11. If you really think about it, there would be no such thing as Jews or being Jewish today, if it were not for the orthodox tradition. It was that tradition that kept the tradition alive through thousands of years of prosecution. Just as I would not go into an ultra orthodox suburb wearing shorts and a tank top only out of respect, not because I believe it is wrong, the woman of the wall although I understand there angst, have picked the wrong forum for this debate. That being said Sharansky’s plan is a good compromise, since the area was never used for minyans before and is not considered a set place congregational prayer, and should be initiated as quickly as possible.

    • Allison Allison says:

      Sharansky’s plan of splitting the wall up, I fear, will lead to endless fighting. Do you really believe that the most right wing will sit back and just happily watch non-halachic prayers going on? I fear this new plan will lead to an whole new era of protests, arrests, and fighting.

      I don’t think we’ve “earned” this space back yet with our current behavior.

  12. Reuvain says:

    Jewish tradition has determined practice at the Wall at the Temple since the time of King Solomon. The leader of WoW has stated her goal is yo remove the mechiza, ban male prayer after 9 am and have the Kotel a national monument. Clearly her agenda is not prayer but imposing change. If she wanted compromise she coud have accepted the arrangement of the Israeli Supreme Court and prayed at Robinsons Arch, it’s the same wall.

    The is not a case of two kids playing. Rather its one kid bullying. And more than that its not about the Wall. Hoffman is clear she wants to dismantle the religious status quo in Israel. Today it’s the wall, tomorow marriage and divorce. She has stared this time and again.

    It’s the Jews who care about tradition saying you are not going to impose your unilateral changes on the majority. What will you Say when she brings music to the Kotel on Shabbat or performs the first gay marriage at the Wall.

    • Allison Allison says:

      thanks for your comment, Reuvain, but there’s no mitzva to pray AT that wall. it’s a supporting wall that Herrod built to hold up the har habayis after he added more dirt to build it up.

      the problem with your bullying example is that the WoW will talk about how they’ve been bullied. each side feels wronged. each side is certain of its rightness. all i’m saying is let’s make this space neutral. let’s just have one less thing to fight about

      music on shabbos and gay marriages at the wall are a different story – no one has fought about those things yet. hopefully those fights won’t come up. i don’t believe we will all see eye to eye any time soon.

      so hopefully we can live our lives in our own spaces as we see fit, but in these shared spaces, for the sake of unity – can’t each side just give something up?

  13. Reuvain says:

    So this is what you are saying. A bunch of liberal feminists who can’t muster much more than 100 people a month should cause millions to stop daaveing at the Wall for shalom. WoW may feel bullied but they are attempting to change 2800 years of tradition. I suggest you take a moment and do a drop of research. Hoffman and company are interested in just prayer at the Wall it’s a much broader agenda. What’s next we chane the was of marriage, say kosher should not be in the army since liberals oppose it. As for the music and marriage that’s what reform does in the us so why not atthw Wall.

    • Allison Allison says:

      So I was raised Conservative and the first time I saw the kotel I was disgusted by that wall the women had to stand behind. When I became frum I saw things differently! But the majority of diaspora Jews see the mechitza like I did growing up – it’s an affront to kavod habriyos. Also – this is more that 100 women – the vast majority of Diaspora Jews believe that traditional prayer is an affront to kavod habriyos.

      The other issues you bring up are real issues-they’re not simple. But the idea of us constantly fighting steps from the charban is heartbreaking to me. I’m not saying solving this one issue makes the other issues go away, but at least it’s one less thing to fight about.

    • Susan Barnes says:

      “…they are attempting to change 2800 years of tradition.”

      Absolutely not true. Prior to 1967, there was no mechitza. Men and women both prayed at the Kotel with no separation. There are pictures of them doing so, and descriptions of them doing so in the 1700′s and 1800′s, if not earlier. They even did so on the day of liberation. The “tradition” at the Kotel to which you are clinging is not even 50 years old.

      Also, Rishonim have ruled that women may wear a tallit, and it is a mitzvah for women to do so.

  14. Yitzchok Oratz says:

    I love what Jew in the City stands for. Keep up the great work. But this article saddens me deeply, and I find it to be terribly wrong. We fight waaay to much, but some things are worth fighting for. And sometimes we have to take a stand on what we believe in — even if its not a technical Halacha. 99 percent of the Jews who care about the Wall, the ones who Daven there, think about it, yearn for it when they can’t be there, feel one way. Others are using it to fight an agenda.

    What we have to do is stop the idiotic protests, but not give up something that we love dearly.

    Besides the above, I am not sure if you are correct in how you describe the feelings of secular Jews. My wife and I have brought dozens of secular Women to the Wall and they are not offended by it. They love it and are moved by it. I teach in a local Conservative Day School and the children were recently taken to Israel on their graduation trip. What the children were offended by was the idea that they made a statement by Davening together at the Arch. They asked, why couldn’t we just separate the boys and girls and have an authentic Kotel experience like everyone else?

    Hoping you will reconsider this one :-(

    • Allison Allison says:

      Thanks for your comment, Yitzchok. Please understand that I’m not in love with my suggestion either. It would be horrible and yet I don’t see any other way to stop the fighting over this piece of real estate. I certainly can’t speak for the group of students you brought to the Kotel, but take a look online at some of the articles and blog posts that are being written by WoW supporters. They’re not part of the group itself – they’re part of the non-Orthodox Diaspora Jewy which is about 90% of Diaspora JEws and for the most part in support of non-tradional prayer. They’re as convinced as you are of their rightness. So how does this ever end?

      I’m curious what you see as a solution b/c if we keep fighting over this one space, I don’t see either side ever backing down. That’s a terrifying thought to me. We finally return to Tzion after two thousand years, after generations of being tortured and killed by anti-Semites and then we become our own worst enemy.

  15. Yitzchok Oratz says:

    The reaction was not just from students, but from dozens of adult secular woman whom we have brought to the Wall. I am not sure how accurate a representation those articles you mention are, but even those are reacting to how the events are portrayed in the media. They always focus on the few dozen lunatics who protest and not on the thousands of sincere Jews who pray there. Ask Lori P. of JWRP how many of the thousands of women she has brought to Israel were offended,  and how many inspired.

    As to the solution, the answer is actually pretty simple in theory but hard to reach in practice – but we must keep trying.  If we sanctified G-d’s name in our every action and interaction, stopped letting the lunatics represent us, and speak compassionately but yet clearly about what we believe in (in other words “Jew in the City” – at least before this article :-)) then secular Jews and Non-Jews would appreciate our position. Until then we will continue to be defined by the minority of lunatics.  But we need not let either the Women of the Wall or the Religious protestors define who we are or what we believe in. We don’t have to let either group make us give up on the Wall.

  16. Charlie Hall says:

    Thank you for a rare dose of reality and sanity. I support returning the Kotel to the status it had from time immemorial, a place for (only) private prayer and supplication. Shabat shalom.

  17. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Kol Hakovod for you reasoned approach. However, I think you’re solution is an overreaction to an overreaction by the media. More than 99% of the time the Kotel works fine. It’s a place were people of all religious stripes, Jew and non-Jew come to pray, celebrate Simchas, take pictures, whatever.

    To use your analogy, imagine you had one TV and a bunch of a kids. All month long they cooperated beautifully in sharing the TV, deciding together on what shows to watch. But once a month, there was one, hour-long show, that they fought over. Would you really take the TV away from them for that one infraction?

    To bring it closer to home, let’s say the one show they were arguing over was Barney. But they really weren’t arguing over the show. It happens to be that one of the boys liked to dress up as Baby Bop and one of the older boys, being a bit of a bully, kept beating up the Baby Bop kid. This caused a big tumult as everyone got involved. Would you punish everyone or just the bully?

    • Allison Allison says:

      Thanks for your comment, Menachem. I guess I should clarify something though – I’m not just referring to the explosions that occur at the wall itself. I believe the fighting, the hard feelings, the negativity of fighting over these stones is happening all over the Jewish world now in conversations, blog posts, synagogue meetings. I fear that it’s not just the times we see the actual altercations, but the deep divide and sinas chinam it’s causing throughout the Jewish world.

  18. There are times when fighting does have its place and we have to disagree. The Kosel is a makom kedusha and in no way or shape can men and women daven without a mechitza present.
    Ever since we merited to receive the Kosel, it has been this way.

    PLEASE understand that to true Orthodox Judaism there is no unity at the wall, except between each person and their tefila to H-shem. This is Golus, this issue is just one more of the million issues surrounding us.

    Please let the basics of Yiddishkeit remain untouched. All who visit the WALL respect it’s modesty, so why can’t we.

    • Allison Allison says:

      Thanks for your comment, Sara. I’m not suggesting that men and women daven without a mechitza present, I’m suggesting that we no longer have formal prayer at the Kotel, hence no need for a mechitzah. I fear that no solution will ever make the whole Jewish people happy. An Israeli judge has ruled that the WoW can pray with tallisim, tefillin, and read Torah. There is talk of making a third egalitarian section. The traditionalist will protest these things, then maybe it will go back to how it was – traditional davening – then the progressives will protest next. There will be no end. And we will keep ripping each other apart. And since there is no mitzvah to daven AT the Kotel why are we insisting on formal prayer then if it’s causing so much sinas chinam among Jews. I agree there are things that need to be fought for – but shouldn’t we try to minimize what we fight over?

  19. If H-shem gave us the Kotel back thru the soldiers and lives that were lost in the wars, we can fight for keeping the most important Holy site Holy. I firmly believe in the power of prayer at the Kotel. A Minyan has more strenght than a single person. Torahs live there, the Kotel is their home. Nishmas, tehilim, etc. The people that truly know frum jews well, respect them and honor them. They dont think we are lunatics. The ones that do, just don’t know us well enough. I think your point is valid in making our place in the world, but not by explaining ourselves, but rather by modeling decent lives.
    Its worth doing it in a way where all can understand that we mean business and will not back down of an issue of major importance. You wouldn’t compromise Shabbos or Kashrus and by compromising the Kotel we’re compromising both. We firmly know that our Bais Hamikdash will be built there. It’s Holy Ground. Kavod means respect but Kavod means strenght.
    Let’s figure out how to balance love with strenght. That is the real Ahavas Yisrael.

    • Allison Allison says:

      What if we merited to get the the Kotel back because of the unity that came from the wars. I don’t think a rebuilt Jerusalem is going to come about due to fighting – do you? My understanding is that we will merit to see a rebuilt Jerusalem with loving each other and unity. You and I have the same goal, but I see the Kotel as a test – to see if we’ll fight or unify. You’re seeing protecting formal prayer at the Kotel as the road to a rebuilt Jerusalem. My plan abides by halacha AND brings Jews together – yours has winners and losers.

      • admirable. until the last part – the other non jewish residents of jerusalem? where do they fit into this rebuilt united city of halacha? wouldn’t it be better if it was a mixed community for all residents under the control of who cares who? i don’t believe in ethnic exceptionalism for anyone – it’s racism.

        • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

          Thanks for your question, Tanya. Non-Jewish residents should always be able to freely in Israel as they do today. It’s the only democracy in the Middle East. In terms of what a “rebuilt united city of halacha” looks like? Well, that would be in Messianic times, I suppose, and no one knows exactly what that will look like. But a basic rule is that all people should be able to live freely.

  20. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Aliison, you’re correct in that this is a much broader societal problem. Mostly, caused by fanaticism and intolerance. I’m not sure this is the best way to solve it. And also imagine applying your solution on a national level! :)

  21. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Sara, your statements reflect part of the problem. The Kotel is NOT a makom Kedusha. Even if it were that does not, in and of itself require a mechitza, even to daven. E.g. one can daven w/o a mechitza in a public place that does not have the status of a shul. (This is a bit of a Catch 22 as many say that because there is a mechitza it now is a shul.) These types of misunderstandings are part of what causes the intolerance that doesn’t allow for the variation necessary to accommodate as many people as possible.

  22. Allison,

    Your suggestion, while well meaning, is completely unworkable and unacceptable. And make no mistake, it wont happen.

    First, as Reuvain pointed out the next fight, which is already brewing for a few years in Israel, is gay rights and gay marriage. Based on your above pricnciples, in a few years when this fight in Israel is underway and very heated, as it inevitably will be, you will be similarly suggesting a similar compromise with the homosexual lobby.

    While we’re at it, shouldn’t we be compromising with the Reform, even now already, between our “differences” between the Reform and Orthodox?

    • Allison Allison says:

      There are many fights brewing – marriage, conversion, gay marriage. Those are all touchy subjects, but they’re in the realm of actual halacha. The wall is NOT a halachic thing. I believe that halachic matters are things we must stand up for (though in as delicate ways as we can for these sensitive subjects) but as I see it, perhaps some good will could come out of agreeing on the wall. It will not solve all the problems, all the divides, but it’s at least one less thing for us all to fight neck and neck about. Isn’t that a good thing?

  23. Allison,

    This very much IS a halachic matter. Rav Moshe Feinstein, the greatest halachic decisor of our generation, said that the women insisting on wearing a talis are commiting a halachic prohibition and engaging in heresy. Yes, he wrote heresy about women wearing a talis.

    • Allison Allison says:

      Thanks for your comment, Joe. I didn’t mean to say that there are no halachic implications to women praying in a non-traditional way. What I DID mean to say was that we are not chayav in praying at the wall. There are women in other places in Israel praying in non-traditional ways, but they’re in they’re space and traditional people are in their space and so no one gets into each other’s space and no one is fighting over the issue. There are certain issues in Israel, like marriage, divorce, conversion, etc. which have national implications even if they concern someone else.

      The reason I see the Kotel battle differently is b/c if formal prayer stopped happening, then the progressives would stop fighting for the way they want to pray and the traditionalists would stop fighting to disallow prayer that offends them. I’m just saying if there’s ONE less thing that we could fight about, wouldn’t that be a good thing?

  24. Menachem Lipkin says:

    3 things Joe. First, we don’t always pasken according to Rav Moshe. Also, he died nearly 30 years ago. Things have, and will continue to change. Most importantly, what’s your source?

    Here’s a quote from Igros Moshe OC 4:49 that seems to contradict what you said:

    But since any woman is permitted to perform even those commandments that the Torah does not obligate her to perform, and these women do a mitzvah and are rewarded for performing these commandments. And according to Tosfot’s view they are also told to recite the blessings on these commandments — and in accordance with our custom that they perform the commandments of [hearing the] shofar and [waving the] lulav and recite blessings [on these performances]. If so, with respect to tzitzit as well, it is possible for a woman who wishes to fulfill this mitzvah to wear a clothing item that is distinct from the one typically worn by men but which has four corners and for her to attach tzitzit to it and thereby fulfill this commandment.

  25. But, Allison, unless I misread you I understand you to be proposing that in addition to ending formal prayers you also wish to allow individual women to pray at the Kosel donned in talis and tefilin. If so, this is a serious halachic breach that cannot (and will not) be tolerated. If that’s not what you are proposing, then it is patently obvious that the WoW gang will not accept anything less than they be allowed to wear a talis at the Kosel — whether as a group or as individuals. Ending formal prayers will not do anything to end the conflict.

    Menachem, see how Rav Moshe ends that very peak. He says tefilin are patently forbidden regardless. And talis are too forbidden (due to heresy) in this case due to their intentions:

    ” in the case of tefillin did the Tosefos write (Eruvin 96a) that they should be prevented from doing so… [Regarding a talis being allowed] this is clearly if she has a heartfelt urge to keep mitzvahs, even when not commanded. However, since this is not the intention, but rather resentment toward Hashem Yisbarach and His Torah, this is not an act of performing a mitzvah at all, but the very opposite: a prohibited act, the prohibition of heresy, for she thinks Torah laws can be replaced.”

    • Allison Allison says:

      You misread me! I’m suggesting that NO one gets to wear tallisim and tefillin at the Wall. No formal prayer, no Torah readings. There is SURELY a loss with my plan – but it’s everyone’s loss.

  26. lol

    If this is what you consider a solution.

    • Allison Allison says:

      As I said – everyone will hate it, but I’m trying to think outside the box. My fear is that we are a “stiff necked people” and neither side will ever back down.

  27. Allison,

    No one should be allowed to daven at the Kosel with talis and tefilin?? You are proposing to end a 2,000 year old Jewish tradition!

    Also, you shouldn’t be putting these two “sides” on an equal pedastal or viewing them as both having some good points any more than you should be doing that between Orthodoxy and Reform.

    • Allison Allison says:

      WAIT – I didn’t say people should stop davening with tallisim and tefillin ALL TOGETHER, I said that we should find other places for formal minyanim because this spot is causing too much strife in Klal Yisrael. BIG difference. The Kotel was never meant to be a place to daven at – it’s a retaining wall that Herrod built for the Second Temple. We’re not chayav in davening at that exact spot but we’re chayav in being rodef shalom.

      My purpose for trying to explain the motivation of the sincere EACH side is not to say who’s more right than the other side. I come from a Conservative background so I know how I saw the world then. I was a good person with good motivations. I then became frum and now see the world quite differently. But I am trying to show each side that there are values we can each appreciate from the other side even if we disagree on how the values are being applied.

      Do you know when Jews agree, Joe? When Nazis are rounding us up! Why can’t we try to find common ground BEFORE anti-Semites unify us?

  28. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Exactly Joe, and since you can’t know a person’s intentions you can’t know if it’s “heresy”. Besides, he makes it clear, m’ikir Hadin, it’s permitted. Your original statement was misleading at best, completely false at worst. And again, this is Rav Moshe speaking more than 30 years ago.

  29. Allison: Jews have been davening at the Kosel with talis and tefilin for 2,000 years. What you are proposing is to end that.

    Menachem: Rav Moshe determined, as he stated in the psak, what their intentions are. Furthermore, regarding tefilin he said it is outright assur.

    • Allison Allison says:

      Joe – I’m not saying that I love my suggestion – I noted that everyone would hate it! I don’t know the history of the Kotel – I know Jews had access to it for some time and loss access to it for some time. What happened in the Jewish world in the recentish past, though, is that some women wanted to also daven with tallisim and tefillin. If you’ve noticed, they’re not so keen on stopping just because of what Rav Moshe or other rabbis have said.

      So what is the solution? How do you think the situation can be resolved? I don’t see either side ever backing down: the progressives will keep wanting to daven as they want to, the traditionalists will keep insisting that these women not daven this way. Neither side backs down. What kind of future is that?

      We’re not chayav in davening at that spot. In fact, we’re specifically STUCK davening and ONLY davening at that spot because we haven’t stopped practicing sinas chinam. The purpose of my plan is that we take steps towards ahavas Yisael so we NEVER have to daven at the wall and instead are zocheh for a bayis shlishi.

  30. Well, we’ll have to agree to disagree (very much so.) Nevertheless, do you realize that your suggestion has no likelihood of coming to fruition? The frum people will never agree to stop davening at the Kosel. Not in a million years. And davening entails wearing a talis and tefilin. (For the men folk.)

    The Reform, too, constantly accuse of “sinas chinom” for disputing their legitimacy and a whole host of other reasons.

    • Allison Allison says:

      I agree that this plan will likely never happen.

      But how do you see this all ending in a way that brings moshiach? The current trajectory is feeling very hopeless to me which is why I’m trying come up with a new solution.

  31. Allison,

    The frum folks reaction to these WoW is l’shem shamayim, a kiddush Hashem and the Torah way. If people come to change Judaism, we have an *obligation* to protest. Now the less than a handful of bored adolescents that threw some water (or whatever it was) at the WoW were wrong and made a chillul. But the media overplayed that almost non-existent little misbehavior by less than a handful of kiddies and falsely described it as a frum riot. The media always lies as such. Nevertheless, the media lies notwithstanding, we cannot change from doing the right thing — and this *was* the right approach — due to media lies or some children who follow no Rov.

    • Allison Allison says:

      thanks for your comment, Joe. first off – egalitarian prayer has been around for a while, so this is nothing new. it’s not like WoW invented it. there is an obligation to fight with an apikoris. but as a former Conservative Jew who strongly believed in egalitarian prayer and thought the Orthodox were all evil I can tell you that I was FAR from an apikoris. an apikoris has to know a LOT and then reject it. my opinions were based on very little experiential or textual knowledge. that is the state of most Jews in the world today.

      so how do you approach people like my former self? by reaching out and trying to making Torah something they’d want to explore further. that is one of the goals of JITC. put it out in an approachable, relevant manner and give people with less background a chance to explore it for themselves. and then way, they can make their Jewish decisions based on knowledge and not stereotypes.

  32. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Allison. You have to stand up to the bullies. That’s what we did here in Bet Shemesh and it worked. It wasn’t pleasant or easy. Just as at the Kotel, there are still people who are bothered by the way our women dress. Normal people should be able to tolerate being “bothered” while going about their business. Remove the violent behavior and you’ll solve the problem. Reinforce the fanatics and you’ll only make it worse.

  33. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Joe, WADR to Rav Moshe he was not a Navi and had no ability to see into people’s minds. And like I said, it’s 30 years later, you have serious women doing serious learning and making serious advances in all areas of society. So yes, there are women who are quite serious and L’Shma about doing these mitzvot. (That fact that there are some with other motivations is completely irrelevant.)

  34. You’ve completely lost it. I can’t tell if you’re trying to be politically correct to keep up group unity, or because you actually believe this stuff.

    1) the “Progressives” do believe in egalitarian prayer. And they do believe in us Orthodox people eventually praying in an egalitarian format. But what they do NOT believe in is forcing us Orthodox people to pray in that format. Everything you’re saying to EVERY member of WoW, for example, I’m sure they would agree with – the value we place on traditional modes of worship, what it means to us, etc. That is IN NO WAY INCONSISTENT with wanting to hold egalitarian services at the Kotel.

    2) The Haredim are using violence. That’s really the only relevant story. WoW and all their supporters, etc have not touched another human being violently. I fail to see how you can draw any sort of equivalence here, even if we pretend that WoW are forcing Haredim to participate in their weird egalitarian Torah readings.

    I’m sure it feels like you’re taking the high road by seeing the “merit” in the positions of both sides. But I’m not impressed. There is no justification for preventing egalitarian Jews from praying how they want to. My theory is that the reason the Haredim are freaking out this way is because they know what WoW knows – the more Haredi women see it happen, the more logical it will seem to them. But that’s hardly a good reason to prevent people from praying, much less physically attacking them.

    • Allison Allison says:

      Thanks for your comment, Jon. I disagree that I’ve completely lost it. If you read through the comments, you’ll notice that people on the traditional side and people on the progressive side are both completely convinced of their side’s rightness. You on earth do you move forward when neither side wants to budge?

      I never said the progressives believe in forcing the Orthodox to pray like them – you’re putting words in my mouth! In terms of the Haredim using violence – let’s just make one thing clear – this was a VERY small group out of thousands who used violence and I’ve seen many many traditionalists condemn the people who used violence, so it’s not fair to generalize.

      The reason I tried to explain the motivations of the sincere people the other side is that I want our people to stop viewing the other side as “evil” and “the enemy.” If we aren’t able to see the good – even if we disagree – with our fellow Jews what kind of future as a nation do we possibly have?!!

  35. Batsheva says:

    Just FYI, Allison, I am an observant, Jewish woman, and I think your solution is absolutely perfect. So not everyone will hate it. Just had to let you know that. You’re brilliant. I only wish everyone could see that.

  36. Allison,

    There’s a possible problem with your solution. What if WoW show up at the Kotel for collective, individual prayer donning a tallitot k’tanot. What would you then say? Men should also be barred from talit katan there?

    • Allison Allison says:

      LOL. I hadn’t considered that one! BUT tzitzis are worn under clothing and are more discreet and haven’t been fought over yet so hopefully fighting over them won’t begin!

  37. David Hoffman says:

    Allison,

    I appreciate that your proposal, and this post, are the result of much thought and concern. But the parable with which you begin reflects reality in a very distorted manner, and from this many other problems flow. Allow me to offer a better version.

    A father has a somewhat larger family, let’s say six boys and six girls. Exasperated with their misbehaviour and squabbling, he shuts them up in a bedroom and gives them three “activity workbooks” to complete, a task which is intended to be both educational and fun. When all three workbooks are successfully completed, he says, they will be released from the room, and taken out for ice cream as a reward. How they divide up the task, and how long it takes, are entirely up to them. After a tedious preliminary fight which never really gets resolved, the children agree to divide into three groups of two boys and two girls, one group for each book. The first team “does” a few pages of its book, mostly with no regard to the instructions, gets bored, and drifts off into playing video games. The second group puts a bit more effort into the task, but change the the instructions when they seem too hard, and insist that exactly half of each individual page be done by the boys and half by the girls, “otherwise it’s not fair.” The third group works dilligantly and tries to follow the directions. Their biggest faults are a tendency to bicker over *exactly* what a direction means and being overly perfectionist (as in, “Hey, you’re pencil mark is one millimeter over the line! Now you have to erase it all and redo it!”) When a page says, “For boys only,” or “For girls only,” they respect this. Otherwise, they try to give everyone a turn. Then two girls from the first two groups come over. They demand to do part of a page with the colors they used in their groups, make clear that they’d really like to take the whole book, and generally make themselves thoroughly obnoxious. In the midst of all this, the father comes in to check up. Obviously he won’t be happy, but do you really think he will find all equally to blame. And, getting back to your proposal, do you really think that saying “Well the directions don’t say you *have* to use colors on the Kotel page, so let’s all do that one just in pencil,” is going to solve anything.

  38. Jack Abramowitz says:

    Since there’s not a snowball’s chance of this proposal happening, any discussion of its details are purely academic. Nevertheless, here goes!

    Invariably, both men and women would continue to show up in tallis & tefillin, and to form minyanim. Traditionalist men would view your proposal as a means to uproot Torah by banning such things and progressive women would see it as a means to block their progress. This would then require us to ignore the infractions (rendering the ban moot) or to arrest the offenders (which would increase the sinas chinam and chillul Hashem). So what have we gained?

    In other words, as good as it looks on paper, I don’t think it would be adhered to in the real world. It would likely only exacerbate the situation by making a two-way fight into a three-way fight!

    • Allison Allison says:

      thanks for your comment, Jack. i agree that this plan would likely never happen. i wrote it more to ask each side to look at itself, so notice how we’re treating our fellow Jew, to notice that there’s no mitzvah to pray AT that spot but there’s a mitzvah to pursue peace.

      we are certainly allowed to disagree with one another, but there’s too much vilifying going on. it’s gone beyond disagreeing about substance and has become ad-hominem in many cases.

      it seems the only way we Jews can get along is if we’re being chased by an outside enemy. my dream is that we can find some common ground BEFORE that happens.

  39. Charnie says:

    I admit, I haven’t read each and every comment above. But based on the JITC analogy of fighting over toys, there is one key factor she missed. That WOW doesn’t only want the toy temporarily, but they want to make it their own and change all the other toys. WOW makes no bones about the fact that they not only want the right to pray, but also want to “liberate” the wall and do away with the mechitzah. The latter two clearly being unacceptable. They are funded via NGO’s (through sales on their website) that have also supported pro-Palestinian groups. So all in all, this is a very sorry situation.

    • Allison Allison says:

      Thanks for your comment, Charnie. A WoW supporter actually improved on my analogy. She said two kids are fighting and one is afraid the other kid is going to break the toy with how he’s using it. I told her that’s the exact fear the traditionalists have of the WoW. If nobody gets the wall, then there’s no idea of “liberating it” or “removing the mechitzah.” If it’s not a space for public prayer then these issues are not relevant. Could there be other things traditionalist and WoW supporters would disagree on concerning things beyond the Kotel? Quite likely, but if no one is praying there then no one can force their ways on another.

  40. Hannah @A Mother in Israel says:

    Your solution, which I saw somewhere else a few weeks ago–will have to look for the link–is giving in to the bullies, as Michael has suggested.
    There have been threats against Egged for displaying ads on buses with pictures of women. And a threat to sue Egged for not showing such pictures. Egged responded by not allowing ads with pictures of people, whether men or women. And voila, no discrimination! It is quite easy to see through this ruse. Taking away people’s rights to daven in a group at the kotel, in order to prevent a group of women from doing so and subsequent attacks against them, is just as discriminatory.
    The analogy of taking away toys is paternalistic and has no place in public discourse. The protest against WOW, and your solution, are attempts to exclude women from public space because they aren’t behaving in the way some people think they should. The way WOW dress or pray does not take away from the experience of others at the kotel in the slightest.
    It also doesn’t matter what some people think WOW’s “agenda” might be. As long as the women are praying, and not holding signs or shouting slogans, they should be ignored. If they make provocative statements to the press, if they want to make offensive changes to the status quo, make counter-statements. But don’t prevent them from praying, because it looks ridiculous and mean to any outsider. And it is.
    Hannah Katsman

    • Allison Allison says:

      Thanks for your comment, Hannah. I’m not suggesting that the toy be “taken away” – I’m suggesting that the brother and sister take a careful look at themselves and decide together that for the sake of their relationship, they’ll BOTH let go of the toy and move on to other things.

      I think everyone – across the spectrum – is against the hoodlums who used violence and physical means against the women of the wall. There are other people, though, who find it painful to see halacha and or mesorah not being upheld at such a holy spot. I don’t consider those people bullies. I think they have a right to have such sensitivities.

      I see the Egged thing differently because having a women’s face shown is NOT against halacha or mesorah. It’s just a stringency some communities have taken on and it’s really outside of mesorah.

      The reason I suggest everyone taking a step back it letting go of the wall is because I don’t see either side ever backing down and it seems like such a shame that we’ve gotten this close yet we’re still so far away!

  41. Judith Gelman says:

    Your answer is that men not read Torah or daven in minyanim either? That there be no bnai mitzvah, not aufrufs, no Kaddish said, no tour groups. Great idea. Now why not also give it back to Jordan?

    • Allison Allison says:

      Thanks for your comment, Judith. I told you people would hate the idea! Do you see the unity this suggestion has caused? Staunch traditionalists AND progressives are all rallying against it! ;)

      So there would certainly be a loss to not have formal prayer BUT, we don’t want to actually be praying at the spot. We want a Bayis shlishi. I suggest we all let go of our goal to pray at the hope in hopes of creating enough unity and good will that we merit a Bayis Shlishi.

  42. You know what, you’re spot on. Tzedek tzedek tirdof. If we are fighting and bickering the way we have been, are we pursuing justice and using the values that Torah taught us? Your solution is fair. it does not oust any group. I would like to see all Jews treat each other with fairness and respect. A jew, is a jew, is a jew, regardless of level of belief, this is ours as a collective whole. We need to share and remember our history instead of trying to control it.

  43. this is an amazing artivle. on both sides the secular and frum have made mistakes. the question is are we willing to try to rectify them?

  44. very interesting. Thank you for posting…

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