An Embarrassment at the Western Wall

Personally, I think both sides of the confrontation at the Wall this week bear some responsibility for an embarrassing situation at the Jewish people’s most sacred holy site.

I can understand that women want equal access to pray at the Western Wall and how the separation seems unequal and demeaning but to wear  traditional garb of worshipping men at the Kotel could easily be felt as an attempt at mockery and does little to advance their cause except to possibly alienate those who might otherwise be more supportive of their cause.

I think if men wore wigs and dresses and tried to pray at the Wall it wouldn’t go over too well either.

Either way the tactics employed by offended Haredim are unwarranted and disgraceful on many levels. To spit at women, throw garbage and scorn on or around holy ground (or anywhere for that matter) is as if not more offensive to the teachings of the Torah than the actions of the feminist activists.

Having one’s teenage girls and boys do the dirty work of their parents and rabbis since they would face lesser fines or criminal penalties is a disgraceful way to teach lessons to children about being responsible for their actions. At least the feminists have the courage of their convictions even if I think their tactics or sense of decorum is lacking.

Either way this is a failure of the Israeli government to resolve this in court, in the Knesset, in mediation anywhere other than at the Western Wall and on the international stage where this story has landed.

I for one feel we should have a protest to ban both groups from the Wall and surrounding areas if these kind of confrontations are to continue for both groups represent minorities and the Wall is for everyone who wishes to visit in a respectful manner and neither side seems to be concerned of the feelings of each other or how this will play locally or internationally portraying Jews/Israelis. Why should a third party visiting the wall have to deal with these incidents if they have no part in this debate?

These kinds of incidents make Israel and the Jewish people appear intolerant to the level of our mostly undemocratic neighbors where one might expect this kind of reaction to a feminist rally in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran or another country run by religious fundamentalists. Some of these countries call themselves democracies but modern democracies protect the civil rights of their minorities.

The Western Wall must be maintained as a holy site for all Jews.  Men who aren’t religious or even non-Jewish must dress respectfully at the Wall so its not as if there’s a double standard of a dress code just for women and not for men. We wouldn’t want to open the door for tourists to start wearing t-shirts, shorts and sandals there as well as if it had the same significance as any Tel Aviv beach. It can’t be a place to wear anything you want and still have the same sense of sanctity.

It’s a sticky subject for sure but one I would hope we can work as a people in a civilized manner befitting a liberal democracy.

I am curious though where are the fathers, sons and brothers of these feminist activists to defend the women in their lives from possible harm?

Which side are these men on and why aren’t they making their voices heard?

I may have offended someone by my comments but at least I had the tact to not do so at the Wall and I had the strength of my convictions not to send send a boy to do a man’s job.

About the Author
David Rhodes is a New England native who spent 16 years in California before moving to Israel in 2008; David is a certified Holistic Health Practitioner since 1992, has worked as a cook in several kitchens and has served as an adviser for San Diego State University's Business of Wine program, from which he graduated. David has worked as a consulting sommelier at wineries and restaurants in California and in Israel. David has written hundreds of articles about Israeli food, wine, beer and spirits as well as interviewed Ambassadors to Israel from China, the Netherlands, South Korea and Cyprus.