When I wrote about my experience, talking on the panel on the Kotel at the General Assembly, I wrote the main points from the event, mainly focusing on what I said, and less so about what the other people said, unless it was shocking or especially noteworthy.
However, there was something I didn’t mention that one of the panelists said, that has since gone viral on the internet, being quoted in many places, and misinterpreted beyond belief.
The internet, especially quotes that go viral, end up becoming like the game of Broken Telephone, where each person hears what they want to hear, with their own biases, and then passes it on to others, and they hear that and misinterpret it with their own biases, etc… until the end result is nothing like the original.
Having been on the panel where it all started, I wanted you to hear “from the horse’s mouth”, or at least as close as that as possible.
In the JFNAGA panel on the Kotel, Hallel Silverman, the teenager from WoW, (who made news when she got arrested for wearing a talis at the Kotel) asked Sharansky if he can promise that WoW won’t be arrested for reading from a Sefer Torah in the women’s section next Rosh Chodesh.
Sharansky said “I promise there will be no arrests, no one will arrest WoW for trying to read from the Sefer Torah” and now that quote has been taken out of context and spread in the media and social media, saying that Sharansky supports Women of the Wall reading from a Sefer Torah at women’s section. People who disagree with Women of the Wall feel Natan Sharansky betrayed them, and people who support Women of the Wall have been using this quote to bolster their cause.
Saying that Sharansky supports reading from the sefer torah in the women’s section because of that quote is a misinterpretation of what Sharansky said. This is the context that was missing:
(What is in italics/brackets is my additions, not actually what he said, but what I understood from what he said.) What he said, in short, was that arresting WoW from the start was a stupid decision [with bad repercussions,] and the government/police [learned that its a bad idea to arrest WoW and] won’t be arresting them anymore.
However, he said quite clearly that while they won’t be arrested, they still won’t be allowed to lein from a torah at the women’s section- [the torah simply won’t be allowed in,] and if they somehow manage to bring it in, they’ll [confiscate the torah or] make the women leave, etc… They wont let kriyas hatorah happen in the women’s section. But no arrests.
As I understood it, in short, nothing different than has been happening since May. No one from WoW getting arrested. They’ve learned that arresting WoW just hurts international relations, and helps bolster their cause, so they’ve stopped arresting WoW altogether.
However, there are still certain rules that have remained. WoW still isn’t allowed to bring in their Sefer Torah to the Kotel plaza, and a sefer torah from the men’s section isn’t allowed to be brought into the women’s section for WoW’s kriyat Hatorah.
What should happen if WoW would try to bring a Sefer Torah to the women’s section? It simply won’t be allowed past security. And if WoW does sneak it in, then they’ll be asked to leave and/or the Sefer Torah confiscated.
But Israel is concerned about its PR, and won’t be arresting WoW anymore.
Whether you think Sharansky supports your side or not is your call. But don’t misinterpret this latest line of his, taken out of context, to assume that it means he supports WoW reading from the sefer torah at the women’s section of the Kotel this month.