1988 was a fundamental year in the history of the State of Israel. Not only did the Jewish state celebrate its 40th birthday, it was also the year in which different citizen groups begin to emerge, one of which is called Women of the Wall –”נשות הכותל” “Nashot Hakotel”. On December 8th, 1988, a group of 100 women entered the zone of this site, the most holy for Jews around the world, and
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did something that was always only customary for men – they prayed the morning service wearing prayer shawls – tallit- טַלִּית. It is really important to mention that the women prayed in the area specifically allocated to them – “ezrat nashim”- עֶזְרַת נָשִׁים.
The reaction of other women and men to these 100 women was one of physical and verbal violence. They were cursed and objects were thrown at them, acts that have become a sad daily reality in this sacred place. I will mention that this group was intentionally provocative – they have continued to pray in this area in direct opposition to the authorities who have repeatedly demanded they stop doing so. They were given permission to pray with yarmulkes and shawls but only in another area that is called “Qeshet Robinson” (Robinson’s Arch), which is a site close to the Western Wall, but many believe less sacred than (it’s on the south-west area of the wall).
Nowadays, after 25 years of disagreement, the reality could be on the cusp of change. A committee led by Nathan Shranasky – a former prisoner of Zion, a current minister in the Israeli Government and chairman of the Jewish Agency – has put forth a motion that the site of the Western Wall be divided into three equal sections: men, women and a mixed section of men and women, in order to create a space where this group of women can practice their rituals in accordance with local law and without being harassed.
2013 is shaping up to be a year of great change in regard to Jewish laws and customs in Israel. Many people are coming forth to say that they think Israel should be a democratic and Jewish state for all Jews, whether they are orthodox or not.
What do you think about this proposed change? We would love to hear your opinions on this subject!
Prayer Shawl-Tallit- טַלִּית