For just a minute, a split second I had a vision strange and beautiful, something related to Judy Chicago but what was it? There I was in the midst of Rosh Chodesh Av close to but not quite at the Western Wall, the Kotel, with “Women at the Wall” when I found myself floating above the fray. Ironically, I was welcoming Av, the month that theologically and psychologically represents the destruction of the Temple. The noise, the high tensions, and some limited physical violence made palpable the conflict inherent in competing demands and values and made me think that I was actually reliving Tisha b’Av. Was that a Roman soldier or an Israeli police or a hostile Jew over there?
And I could not shake the words in my head of the song/poem by Judy Chicago…”And then all that has divided us will merge. And both men and women will be gentle, and both women and I will be strong, and Everywhere will be Eden again.
But it certainly is not Eden again yet. And yet, could it be that something was happening? It felt like that to me.
And then my mind wandered to my 2008 visit to Hebron and the yelling by the residents of Kiryat Arba screaming that we were Nazis and wanted Judenriden because we talked with Palestinians. And because of that we now had Jewish blood on our hands. I saw the Palestinian woman looking out from her porch on the second floor from behind chain-linked fencing. Below her apartment I could still see e blue Jewish stars spray-painted on the closed storefront. And I remembered the little children peering out of windows, also behind chain-linked fencing. We were told by a policeman that the fences were erected for the safety of the Palestinians. They were there to protect them from Jewish children who threw dirt and stones at the few Palestinian remaining in this area of Hebron. For their own good, the Palestinians were restricted in movement but they sure looked like prisoners to me.
And quickly I returned to the present where barricades blocked our entrance to the women’s section of the Kotel and forced us to pray “not quite” at the Wall. It was for our own good I was told by who knows whom. We were being protected from the Haredi men who felt entitled, no, obligated to throw things, yell, blow whistles call us Nazi-ettes (sounds better in Hebrew) and generally threaten us. And we also had to be protected from the Haredi girls and women who were overflowing from the Women’s area of the Wall and who would certainly tear us limb from limb if we entered.
It certainly is not Eden again yet. And yet…
From behind me, I heard one of the original Women at the Wall rabbis exclaim that she was upset. At that moment I did not know why nor do I now. Was the pain of seeing Jew against Jew and feeling like it is a fight to the death? Or was it the pain of the barrier that prevented us from actually getting to the Women’s section at the Wall with our Torah? For her and many others, it was not Eden again yet. And there was no “and yet….” The sadness and anger were palpable. But for others there was joy to be praying together– women of all religious persuasions. The big picture was not yet Eden but for a moment I could pretend.
And again for just a minute, a split second my mind wandered. What if instead of trying to out-pray and outshout each other someone, some Nachson walked into the Sea of Reeds that separated us and joined us together in song, in Psalms, not in competition but in celebration of the new month and acted as if, as if…
Won’t that be almost as good as the Messiah’s coming? Would it be Eden?
Maybe not but it would certainly shake things up.