The Physics of the Western Wall

This blog post is dedicated to my physics teacher, Malka, who many years ago taught me that everything that happens has a Cause and Effect.

On Tuesday, I read a blog posted by one Mike Hinden from England, who was writing for the first time. What prompted Mr. Hinden to write in his words was: “The rise in the autocracy demanded by both the ultra-Orthodox and the very Liberal Left.”

On the one hand, I applaud  anyone who goes out of his or her comport zone to protest by writing a blog, going to a rally, or sharing on Facebook, as we are all commanded to “Tikun Olam”, to better our world.  It is clear that Mr. Hinden spoke out with that noble motive.

On the other hand, not having Malka as his physics teacher he must have missed the important physics lesson of Cause and Effect, and biology’s Taxonomy. Putting everyone involved in the Western Wall issue into the same category, is underestimating the complexity of the situation. This isn’t a case in which two kids are pulling at one toy from either end.  It cannot be treated like the parent of those misbehaving children by saying: “I don’t care who started this fight. All of you stop squabbling and go to your rooms”.

Ultra-Orthodox woman disturbing WOW prayer at the Wall
Ultra-Orthodox woman disturbing WOW prayer at the Wall

I understand that many feel that we Jews have enough external enemies and wish for “Shlom Bayit” (i.e. “Peace in the Home”) among the Jewish people, as do I. But what we have to remember is that the anger among most liberal Jews is a reaction to “The rise in the autocracy demanded by the ultra-Orthodox” Calling those who apse it “Liberal Left” just because they refuse to accept ultra-Orthodoxy’s control over their lives in Israel, and its effects on the lives of world Jews cannot be dismissed as “everyone is misbehaving just go to your rooms”.

There’s Cause and Effect. If we want “Shlom Bayit”, we need to seek the cause of the turmoil, and change it. The other option is to forget about Tikun Olam and sink into our easy chairs.

“From California to Jerusalem we have the demands of Women of the Wall, who never seem to be happy with whatever they’re given.” Wrote Hinden and suggested: “Both sides trying to make political capital, instead of listening to each other and solving issues.”

Women of the Wall have been demanding equality and pluralism not just for ourselves and our daughters, but for the right of every single Jew to pray according to her or his custom. Making it sound like we are a group of spoiled brats who are “never happy” is misguided and misogynistic. No one ever handed us anything and what we are offered is humiliating and insulting to any woman or liberal Jew.

Putting our fight in the same basket with the oppression that’s causing it, requires us to bow down to misogyny as it is conveyed in ultra-Orthodoxy. We will continue to fight but not for political capital. Rather, for basic gender equality and religious freedom. Our fight is the effect, and the cause is discrimination and autocracy. It’s our reaction to religious fundamentalism.

WOW prayer (photo credit Michal Fattal)
WOW prayer (Michal Fattal)
About the Author
Lesley Sachs is the 2014 recipient of the NCJW Jewel Bellush Outstanding Israeli Feminist award and was one of the founding members of “Isha L’isha – Haifa’s Feminist Center” and worked for 10 years in the Israel Women’s Network. Lesley served as executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), vice president of the World Union For Progressive Judaism and founding director of Project, Kesher Israel. She is currently working as the executive director of Women of the Wall. She served on the board of directors for the Jerusalem Women’s Shelter, board of directors for the JNF-KKL and currently she is chair of the pre-army mechina Michmanim in Jaffa.
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