Rashi’s daughters wore tefillin

After Israel’s Supreme Court reversed the ridiculous law barring women from praying with a tallit (after 2013, when my mom and I got arrested), multiple parties worked together to create a plan for the Kotel that would make room for all Jews. But for almost 10 years, the Kotel Deal was continuously sidelined, and progressive Jews, along with the Diaspora, were again shown that they don’t matter to the Netanyahu government. Women of the Wall, whose members have been fighting to secure the rights of women to pray at the Western Wall since 1988, continue to pray each new Jewish month at the Kotel. They still face harassment, violence and threats. 

The Kotel Deal, which was agreed upon in 2016, includes expanding the egalitarian Ezrat Israel section at the Southern Wall and creating a joint management committee with leaders of the Conservative and Reform movements, allowing a safe place for non-Orthodox prayer. More than half of American Jews (54%) belong to the Conservative and Reform movements, comprising over half of the world’s second largest Jewish community. Our hopes for finally achieving this agreement were dashed again this week, when Bennett officially announced that there will be no advancement of the Kotel agreement. Shame. 

The gender separation barrier (mechitza) was only built at the Western Wall in the 1950s.

The current Knesset coalition does not include any of the ultra-Orthodox parties, who have traditionally been the biggest block for progressing egalitarianism and equal rights. So, for Bennett to say it’s “controversial to this coalition”, basically translates to me as “I don’t have the ovaries to stand up to the ultra-Orthodox.” 

In 2016, when Bennett was Diaspora Minister, he was part of building the Kotel Deal under the Netanyahu government. Then he was part of crumbling to the ultra-Orthodox’s pressure and shelving the deal. Now he caved again..

On a Zoom call call just five months ago with top leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations, Bennett indicated that once the Knesset approves his government’s biennial budget in November — a move that would stabilize the coalition for at least the coming two years — “that’s when we can start dealing with more complicated issues.” 

The budget is well behind us, and no, we were not prioritized.

Now, he was supposed to be better than this. To not give in to extremists and their demands.

“The eyes of Jews in Israel and the Diaspora are looking at the current government in hopes that it will implement a worthy compromise that will help all of the people of Israel and not surrender shamefully to violent bullies,” said Anna Kislanski, CEO of the Israeli Reform Movement.

Let’s get Jewy for a second, cause what we’re arguing about is kind of silly….

Rashi’s own daughters wore tefillin.

The gender separation barrier (mechitza) was only built at the Western Wall in the 1950s. We’re fighting over something that was NOT a part of ancient, historic Judaism at all. But instead, a sexist, extremist addition from the last 100 years. 

At Sinai, we stood together as one.

In private, all are free to pray as they wish, to have their conversations about what women are and are not allowed to do. But this may not be codified into civil law in a democracy.

Prime Minister Bennett, what do you stand for if not democracy and the rights of Jews to live free of government-backed oppression?

About the Author
Hallel Silverman is an American born, Israeli raised digital activist located in Tel Aviv. With nearly a decade in Israel Advocacy, Hallel has created and executed content for dozens of major organizations, and has been a leading voice online for progressive Zionism. She is an associate at the Tel Aviv Institute, and one of the Top 50 Digital Israel Influencers of 2021.
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