Yesterday, on Rosh Chodesh Shvat, Moving Traditions flew in three teenage girls from the US to join Women of the Wall for their Rosh Chodesh service at the Wall. This is an open letter I have written to one of the girls, Lucy Sattler.
You seem like a sweet, sincere girl with a dedication to justice and fairness in the world. I would have loved to have met you yesterday, to have spoken to you for longer than I did. Unfortunately, we weren’t given that chance.
When I saw you at the Kotel yesterday, I recognized you right away from WOW’s publicity photos, with your long hair and pretty smile. I walked up to you, wished you Mazal Tov on winning the contest sponsored by Moving Traditions, and welcomed you to Israel. I introduced myself, and said that if you wanted to hear the other side of the story, I would love to talk to you.
Immediately, you were pulled away by an older woman who was with you – probably your mom – and we weren’t given a chance to talk.
Lucy, I don’t need you to agree with me. I think people have a right to disagree, and if everyone in the world thought exactly the same way, the world would be a boring place. But I was disappointed that none of those with you wanted you to be exposed to another perspective. Were they worried that you, like the girls who came from NFTY, might decide that the issue isn’t as black and white as you’d been led to believe?
You see, you’re not the first girl to be flown to Israel for the opportunity to join WOW at the Wall. Like Alexandra Schwartz, one of the girls who came with you, some of them had never heard of Women of the Wall before, either. And like you, they only heard one side of the story – until they got to the Wall.
I recognize a truth seeker when I see one, and Lucy, in you, I see someone who wants to learn, and wants to find out the truth. The Kotel situation is certainly complex.
When you studied about Women of the Wall, did you read anything written by Women For the Wall, or anyone not a supporter of Women of the Wall? I would assume not, as most of the media, especially in America, is aligned with WOW.
Women For the Wall has been working hard to share our perspective on the Kotel situation, so that Americans and others around the world can have the full story and make up their own minds. For their part, WOW has tried hard to pretend we don’t exist, refused to meet with us, banned us and our supporters from their Facebook wall (though they are happy to share their opinions on ours), share on a panel or otherwise dialog with us. There was only one exception: they couldn’t turn down the Federations, the way they spurned invitations from several other groups. Isn’t it ironic that a group that touts pluralism and women’s rights is trying so hard to silence the voice of other women?
One of the most important things I’ve learned is that the truth isn’t afraid of questions. And I’ll clue you in on why they won’t do panel discussions – after we did present together at the Federation General Assembly, several of their supporters came over to me afterwards, and told me they’d changed their minds.
Women here in Israel already seem to know something you weren’t given the opportunity to learn. Did you notice how few Israeli women joined you, how Anat was one of the very few with an Israeli accent? Did you wonder why Israeli women – from your age to Anat’s – all seem to oppose WOW?
Women of the Wall use lots of good catch-phrases: women’s rights, freedom of worship, Rosa Parks, pluralism, and equality. When truth seekers like yourself, Lucy, are given the chance to hear the other perspective, their past support for Women of the Wall simply melts away.
Unfortunately, most Americans who’ve heard about the situation at the Kotel have never heard the other side of the story, either because they haven’t been given the chance, or because they are deliberately kept in the dark.
Women For the Wall was founded to give a public voice to the traditionalist women at the kotel, a voice that until we started our group, hadn’t been given a chance to be heard.
And that is why Women For the Wall is going on a speaking tour.
Next week, I will be flying to the US, speaking in numerous venues in a few cities in the Midwest, including a few of the same venues where Anat Hoffman previously shared her side of the story. Next month, Leah Aharoni will be heading to the East Coast.
We’re going to speak in the US so that people like you, Lucy, can have a chance to hear both sides of the current Kotel situation.
People deserve to be able to make up their own mind about how they feel about the situation at the Wall, instead of being fed a one-sided story.
And since we didn’t get to meet here, maybe we’ll get to meet there.