Women Off the Wall

It isn’t noteworthy when the Jerusalem Post publishes a one-sided editorial (sometimes posing as a news story) promoting a radical feminist agenda, while attacking the rabbinate and traditional Orthodox norms. This occurs on a near-daily basis. Nary a month goes by without coverage – uniformly sympathetic – given to the self-proclaimed Women of the Wall, a fringe group that receives massively disproportionate attention.

The editors want you to believe that there is longstanding war being waged against women by religious zealots dating back to the Talmud, heroic women are finally fighting back, and they represent all women despite being a small group consisting predominantly of upper-class white liberal Western-educated elitists. The amount of free coverage they receive would lead you to believe that the “erasure” of women is a real issue, an absolutely vital issue, and we should be outraged by it. Their solution is to essentially dismantle the rabbinate, marginalize Orthodox Judaism, and make sure Orthodox rabbis have no influence in Israeli society.

On Friday they published an op-ed by a longstanding member of this group that is worth giving attention to only because of how clearly it exposes the true agenda of these activists.

The author, Hallel Silverman, begins by stating “I’m progressive, I’m a Zionist, I served my country and I was arrested by Israeli police seven years ago at age 17.” Presumably, the fact that she served Israel in some unspecified way should make her immune to future arrest, especially if her crime was one of “passion,” as she defined it. Of course, what she considers passion is considered by most Kotel faithful to be disturbing, offensive, and provocative, but Ms. Silverman seems to be oblivious to their sensitivities. Both Jewish and Israeli law must bend to the will of this small group of “passionate” women.

These women want you to believe that this is a struggle for “religious freedom.” Their mission statement declares that their “central mission is to attain social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah, collectively and aloud, at the Western Wall.”

Yet, interestingly, Ms. Silverman makes it clear that this “struggle” is about far more, and in fact their supposedly sincere desire to pray “their way” is a facade, a Trojan horse to mask far “loftier” goals. Her article continues with a vicious screed against the government and the rabbinate on a long list of issues, including “tossing red meat” to the “ultra-Orthodox parties” by putting “women’s lives… in the hands of men who believe they know God’s ultimate truth.”

She then attacks the theocracy behind “who is a Jew” laws, which prevent non-Jews from magically becoming Jewish even if they fight in the Israeli army. Apparently, serving in the Israeli army should not only grant one immunity to criminal prosecution (can the prime minister she loathes borrow that argument?), it should also make it mandatory to recognize him as a halachic Jew, with all that entails. Her adopted brother served on the Gaza border, but did not have a halachic conversion, and the Rabbanut will therefore not recognize him as Jewish. Bad, bad Rabbanut.

Ms. Silverman then attempts to sow fear among her readers that these evil Haredi rabbis will attempt to control every aspect of our lives.  Last time I checked, it was not Haredi rabbis waging war on secular publications to remove pictures of women, but secular activists are attempting to force publications catering to a niche religious audience whose readers – men and women alike – wish to have the right not to be exposed to such pictures, to include pictures of rebbetzins they interview.  You can’t make this stuff up.

It is not Haredi rabbbis demanding that all beaches, concerts, stadiums, swimming pools, and movie theaters have separate seating, but secular agitators working to impose mixed seating on concerts catering exclusively to people who want separate seating. No one will confuse me for a “Haredi rabbi,” and I disagree with many aspects of their ideology (including separation of the sexes that at times goes overboard), but who is really trying to control whom here?

Ms. Silverman then warns us that these extremists will try to control whether a woman will “carry a pregnancy to term.” What a sanitized, roundabout way of referring to the killing of an unborn child! Manipulating language to make horrific acts sound almost sacred is a favorite tactic of radical leftists, and it should never go unchallenged. Say it like it is.

“Will undocumented immigrants and their children be sent into trafficking and capsizing boats and an existential un-rootedness dependent on the decreasing kindness in the world? Will Israel thrive as a Start-Up Nation or become a mean, narrow theocracy?” In other words, should Israel essentially have open borders, as if our little country that is besieged from within and without doesn’t have enough crime and terror to deal with already? According to this self-righteous woman of the wall, the answer is obvious, and if you disagree, you are a mean religious radical.

It’s remarkable how a sincere desire to connect with God by praying in a way that is meaningful to them comes with so much more just beneath the seemingly benign surface. Ms. Silverman has truly done us a great service by laying bare the far-ranging agenda of her comrades in this “struggle.”

If she has served Israel and the Jewish people in some way, then we say thank you. If she wishes to wage war on halacha, the rabbinate, traditional Orthodox norms, and Israel’s identity as an authentic Jewish state, then we say no thank you. And if the former is contingent on the latter, then we say no thank you to the entire package.

As the Sages said in reference to our enemies who come dressed as friends, we want neither your honey nor your sting.

About the Author
Rabbi Chananya Weissman is the founder of EndTheMadness and the author of seven books, including “Go Up Like a Wall” and “How to Not Get Married: Break these rules and you have a chance”. Many of his writings are available at www.chananyaweissman.com. He is also the director and producer of a documentary on the shidduch world, Single Jewish Male, and The Shidduch Chronicles, available on YouTube. He can be contacted at admin@endthemadness.org.
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