Give the Wall to the Women!

I promise this is my last post about the Kotel controversies. I’m sure everyone is just as sick of this subject as I am. BUT! I had a brilliant idea!

Rosh Chodesh, the first day of each Jewish month, is a mini-holiday given to Jewish women as a reward for refusing to give their jewelry to the men who were building the Golden Calf. Because the Jewish calendar is lunar-based, the first day of the month also corresponds with the new moon, which represents the cyclical nature of women, and symbolizes fresh starts and renewal. It’s a beautiful holiday. A joyous occasion, and a perfect God-given opportunity to celebrate femininity.

It’s no wonder that Women of the Wall designated Rosh Chodesh as “their day.” What better day is there to promote one’s connection with God, the Jewish people, and empower women all at the same time? Unfortunately, the idea of women praying loudly and publicly was somehow an affront to a certain group of traditional-minded women; so much so that they felt compelled to start an organization specifically to oppose them, and dubbed themselves Women FOR the Wall.

It took a while for Women FOR the Wall to clarify their position on the issue, but it’s finally been made clear now that WoW organized a “surprise” prayer group at the Western Wall the week before the new month began. At this prayer, a small group of women wrapped themselves in prayer shawls, and wound phylacteries around their heads and arms, and sang the tefillah, just as they’ve done at every prayer since the creation of their organization. That same day on the Women FOR the Wall Facebook page, one of their founding members posted the following words:

 The Women of the Wall claim that this morning they prayed at the Western Wall, and everything went smoothly… This time, the Women of the Wall did not announce to the media that they would be coming. They did not aim to “see and be seen.” On the contrary — they came, they did their thing, and they left. Their presence was not intended to shock, model, and elevate. They came to pray, and if that was their regular practice, there would be no protests.

Clearly, W4W does not have an issue with the religious paraphernalia donned by WoW members, which was originally thought to be the point of contention. The issue seems to lie in some supposedly offensive mixture of “singing too loudly” and “being provocative.”

For the past four months, both WoW and W4W have come to pray at the Western Wall, and every month has seen clashes between the two groups. Some women in the W4W camp have screamed, jeered and blown whistles to drown out the sound of WoW’s prayer, because they believe that the sound of a woman’s singing voice is immodest, and may not be heard by men.

So, here’s my suggestion: Give the Wall to the women! Just for one hour a month, designate the Kotel for a special women’s Rosh Chodesh celebration. No men allowed. Let all the progressive women and all the traditional women fill the Kotel plaza to capacity and sing and dance together as loudly as they want. With ample space on both the men’s and women’s sides of the mechitza (divider) those who wish to pray with WoW will have the place to do so, and those who wish to pray traditionally, or even distance themselves from WoW, will have abundant space to pray as they deem appropriate.

It is my fondest wish that we put our differences aside and see each other for what we are. Sisters. We may have the occasional disagreement, but ultimately there is a bond between us that would be absolute sacrilege to sever.

About the Author
Bahtya Minkin is a full-time mother of four, originally from Lakewood, NJ, now living in Beit El. In her ample spare time she enjoys crocheting, reading, and arguing with strangers on Facebook.
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