Today is the first of the 9 Days commemorating the destruction of two Jewish Temples and numerous other tragic events that have befallen the Jewish people over the past four thousand years.
We might hope by now, after everything we have suffered at the hands of our enemies throughout history that we would do more to try and avoid destroying ourselves, unfortunately not!
This morning, having decided it was time to see for myself what all the fuss was about involving the Woman of the Wall, I made the walk from downtown Jerusalem to the Old City arriving at the Western Wall by 6am, in time to watch what would have been a beautiful sunrise had there not been so many police and security services preparing for Rosh Chodesh morning prayers.
Ariving at the Kotel having walked through an eerily quiet Armenian Shuk into the Jewish Quarter just coming to life with all the sights and sounds of the start of the new month; people learning together in the tiny Kolels and the most beautiful melodic singing coming from the Hurva Synagogue. I actually felt re-energized and ready to see firsthand what happens at the start of every new Jewish month, when a group of woman come together to recite morning prayers at Jerusalems Western Wall.
My personal upbringing is one of traditional Jewish values mixed with modern orthodoxy, religious Zionism and a close involvement with Chabad in England before I came to live in Israel.
Although through my work I have been exposed to Liberal and Conservative Judaism, female Rabbis reading from the Torah and wearing Tallit and Teffilin, I have to admit it makes me feel personally uncomfortable, which is why I choose to go to a synagogue where men and woman sit separately, and only men would lead the service.
However, I feel that if someone wants to practice their religion in a different way than I do, they have every right. I would not tell them how to behave, and I would not expect them to tell me.
I had felt before this morning that the Woman of the Wall and the ultra orthodox Haredim maybe needed their heads banged together, and could find a way to avoid antagonizing each other without costing those of us who pay taxes vast amounts of money to police and keep them apart every month.
What I witnessed firsthand was a group of vitriolic, hateful young ultra orthodox Jewish men whose behavior was reminiscent of the Muslim Fundamentalists I spoke of in my last blog. With absolute hatred in their eyes, they verbally abused anyone who disagreed with their zealous behavior, including police, journalists, and obviously the women who had come to pray to the same God they claim to worship.
As for the Women of the Wall, they came, they prayed, they sang, some put on Teffilin and read from the Torah, they remained impressively calm during the tirades of abuse that were coming from the other side of the police barriers erected for their safety and protection, manned by vast amounts of border police and plain clothed security.
Every time they tried to recite certain prayers they were met with some of the most disgusting and abusive behavior that I have ever witnessed. It actually sickened me to see and hear what was coming out of the mouths of young Haredim who get all the benefits of this state and contribute nothing.
They are preached to in their Yeshivas by their leaders in the same ignorant hate filled way that young Muslims are preached to in their Mosques by their Imams. Anything that challenges what they are told is met automatically with complete derision and either verbal or physical abuse.
My understanding is that it is not against Halacha for woman to put on Tallit, Teffilin and read from the Torah, they have every right to be at the Kotel, just as the rest of us.
If these so called learned, pious Jews were so devout, they would not even be looking at women, If they were focused on their own prayer, then they would not even hear or see the women, let alone abuse them in the way they did.
It’s bad enough whenever a visitor goes down to the wall (often for the first time) they are swarmed upon by these people claiming that they are in need of money, and made to feel like they are doing something bad for not giving enough.
If any of us went in to an Haredi area and behaved in the way they did this morning, we would have been met with a barrage of rocks and violence.
The Kotel belongs to all of us, no matter what our beliefs. This issue highlights that for far to long Haredim have been allowed to hijack elements of this country and especially its Capital.