I managed to arrive early this morning to tefilot at the Kotel this morning. I sat down at the back of the women’s’ section and listened to the nigunim from the men’s section and sang along. I was met with smiles from the other frum women davening along while I sang. I managed to chat with a few of the other women there, Americans who live in Jerusalem suburbs, not Haredi but rather Modern Orthodox women who come to daven at the Kotel every day, who go out of their way to a completely different neighborhood just to daven at the Kotel every day.
I didn’t realize not only Haredi women come to daven at the Kotel every day. It’s a place so many people feel connected to. And I only wish I could feel the same way.
After a long hiatus of not laying teffillin, I returned to the practice today after five years of not. The leather straps met me with a familiar feeling of my Jewish youth group days, as I recited the proper blessings for adorning Jewish garments. The men and women around jeered at me for not doing it right, which only made me more self conscoius.
I was treated like a second class citizen. Like an animal at the zoo. “Look at her pink kippah! What a joke!” “How disgusting, she’s going to hell!” Like I was a dog who did something bad. Too simple to understand that they are talking about me.
I am overcome with a feeling of kinship of all who have been oppressed before me. I am Apartheid South Africa. I am Selma. I am Armenian. I am a Polish Jew in Nazi Germany and a Soviet Russian. I got a taste of what it is to be “other.”
I have been blessed not be a minority in most of my life. I was not usually confronted with situations that would require me to ask myself hard questions. But today, I caught a glimpse of what it must be like.
Imagine those Haredi women yelling in your ears, blowing whistles at you and insulting your existence, but every day. I can barely handle one morning a month.
The tefillin was starting to cut off my circulation. It was getting hot as the sun rose above the wall and reflected off its Jerusalem stone. Haredi women all around us were screaming at the top of their lungs to drown out our prayers from each other.
But I chose to hold my head up high. I remain strong. I don’t stoop. I choose love.