May rain bring forth Kotel flowering

By Hanukkah, rain is meant to pour down on Israel. Odd drops spit on Jerusalem early-risers on Rosh Hodesh Tevet last week.

Against the background of a few ultra-Orthodox children blowing screechy whistles, shouting and clapping, Women of the Wall recited our prayer for peace. In the melée, our hearts yearned for an end to hatred and jealousy among our people. Having served in the plaza for years, harassed, arrested, and also guarded and coordinated with Women of the Wall, one police officer stood by at the front flank. As tears welled in the eyes of our prayer leader, emotion flooded the officer’s face. Perhaps he grasped the hard path we have trod in an arid desert, the yearning that fuels our perseverance? In his eyes shone an ineffable desire for a better way.

Rosh Hodesh Tevet was new.

We celebrated the ’Festival of Daughters’—a seventh day of Hanukkah Rosh Hodesh tradition. Jews of North Africa fête the women who labored to rededicate the Temple with special fervor and Judith whose apocryphal book tells of saving our people from Assyrians. Partaking of the tradition of Morocco and Tunisia, Women of the Wall chanted each prayer to a Sefardic melody. The lilting voices of our paytaniot-prayer leaders guided a spiritual journey among the eastern lands of our People. We blended our voices across ethnicity and ideology. The women in the plaza heard the native Israeli sounds of Women of the Wall, and the voices of a new generation. Young haredi girls gawked and photographed, witnessed and some, acknowledged.

Mixed wildflowers in Golan

Blooms of joy in the Kotel plaza, in a meadow of prayer, Women of the Wall offer a monthly gesture toward the flowering of our redemption. We share a vision of the wholeness of Jewry in each others’ presence, women taking part in the historic destiny of Israel at a place that is sacred to many.

As the welcome winter rains nourish our thirsty earth, cyclamen, sternbergia, saffron, anemone, asphodel, iris, lupin, crocus, poppy and sage grow forth into the warm sunlight that shines on us all. Their heads and leaves sway together in soft winter breezes. Rising from Jewish bulbs and roots, women wrap in tallit, adorn with tefillin, read from the Torah. May we grow to cherish the many splendid blossoms in the fields of Jewish Peoplehood.

About the Author
The late Bonna Devora Haberman is author of 'Israeli Feminism Liberating Judaism: Blood and Ink' and 'ReReading Israel: The Spirit of the Matter,' National Jewish Book Award finalist. Dr. Haberman taught at Harvard, Brandeis and Hebrew universities. In Jerusalem, she initiated Women of the Wall, a 25 year strong movement for women's full participation and leadership of public religious practice. -- Dr. Haberman died on June 16, 2015.