The Wall, the fence, and the chain

Half of my friends think I’m in line to get measured for a burkha. The other half of my friends think I’m two minutes away from being tackled by police with a bra in one hand, and a lighter in the other. It makes for some interesting, and frequently tiring, conversations. There have been three major topics up for discussion during the past week in my crowd, or should I say “my crowds”. I like to refer to them as the Wall, the fence, and the chain.

Regarding the Kotel, I honestly have to think hard to remember why I used to look forward to going there. One of the reasons the Women of the Wall have not received more support is that secular Jews view it as a lost cause, and how a few hundred women pray at a place they don’t even go doesn’t resonate enough for the nonreligious to fight over. Of course, the Orthodox synagogue may be the one most Israelis don’t attend, but is that the kind of relationship we want Jews to have with the Kotel? It’s like having a mother-in-law you don’t particularly want to spend time with, but can’t altogether avoid.

Not that I have any experience with that kind of thing, at all.

For those who have spent their time demonstrating in favor of tradition, now that the Sharansky plan is almost cemented, can we see a shift of some of that energy into getting women a place to stand when we go there? For example, how about lobbying for a more equitable distribution of the mechitza, and accommodations for inclement weather. Is there any justification for hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of women being pressed together like cattle? If, as you say, you hope that women will continue to pray in great numbers at the Western Wall even after the Women of the Wall move to Robinson’s Arch, then please work to make it a beautiful experience.

The other reason why many Israelis are unwilling to get involved in issues related to the Kotel, is that we actually have serious problems with national security that are in the forefront right now. Notably, we had a horrific reminder of the situation we are dealing with in just the past week, with the murder of Eden Atias, the sleeping soldier stabbed on his way home by an Arab teenager who had entered the country illegally. In a few heated discussions, I have been advised that I should leave my home, which is past the Green Line, and indeed, past the prospective route of the fence once it is completed, and that this would magically lower the tensions that lead to these kind of attacks. Unlike many of my neighbors, I don’t have a particularly strong ideological viewpoint on the borders of Israel, in terms of annexing all of the land won during the war in 1967. However, I have yet to see a plan for how my leaving will make it less likely that another tragedy will occur. In fact, given the history of Gush Katif, it seems a lot more violence is to be expected if we leave. Only, this time it wouldn’t be some development town in the Negev facing the rockets. It would be Jerusalem.

So, convince me. Don’t try to shame me, because people taking land and negotiating for land is the way the world has always worked. Why are there Arabs here in Israel? Because their forefathers took the land from someone else here before them. No, I want the Palestinian people to satisfy me that if I try to coexist by making sacrifices, that they’ll keep the worst of their people from killing our kids. I would like to say I’m not racist. That is currently a difficult stance to maintain when I have yet to see a massive response disavowing the use of violence against civilians from the Arab world. It would be nice if that repudiation could stand against violence against anyone, but I’d settle for a promise to at least stop killing Jews if they can’t refrain from killing each other. And best of all, make those declarations of peace publicly… in Arabic.

Still, on Sunday there was a small glimmer of hope that the world might be able to see reason every once in a while. Artscroll has published a letter from Asher Weiss and Yisroel Weiss, the father and uncle of Avrohom Weiss, stating they have resigned “until this situation is resolved”. The “situation” refers to Avrohom’s refusal to issue a get for his wife Gital Dodelson, who remains a chained woman after several years of separation and a civil divorce. Despite a snarky comment in the resignation letter that it is the Dodelson family, and not the Weisses who are preventing the get from being given, Orthodox women are well aware that a get can only be given by the husband. Once we see Avrohom Weiss issue a get without any strings, we can then begin to determine the culpability that Ms. Dodelson has in refusing to take it.

For too long, the get has been used as a means to subjugate women, and take from them what was promised during the marriage ceremony. If the promises of the ketubah are to have any meaning, then a get should be signed within a reasonable time of the obvious death of the marriage, particularly when accompanied by a civil divorce. It should no longer be considered a tool to be used as part of the negotiation process. If the Orthodox world wants to proclaim that women are equals with different roles, then prove it by unlocking our metaphorical chastity belts.

Walls, fences, and chains are usually intended to separate and divide. But if we all try, perhaps we can come together and use these issues as the basis for learning to understand each other, and to come up with real solutions to some of the biggest problems that we Jews are facing. I’m hoping for good things.

About the Author
Malynnda Littky made aliyah to Israel with her family in 2007 from Oak Park, Michigan. Her recent stay in Paris, enjoying both medical tourism and her new status as the trophy wife of a research economist, has renewed her love for Israel, despite arriving just in time to enjoy several weeks of lockdown.