Upon moving to Israel a big question in my head was if/how I would interact with Women of the Wall. I have written about the group before, and after the experience of a close friend of mine this month, I had to speak out again.
Ten days ago was Rosh Chodesh Elul. A particularly auspicious time in the Jewish year where we are to focus on reflection, teshuva, and preparing for the holy of holies. Yet, when a friend of mine donned her talit to pray with Women of the Wall (as she does in her shul every single morning, whether in the US or Israel) – she was arrested by the Israeli police.
In the past, women have been detained for carrying the Torah and a myriad of other things, but this time was different. Lorraine was actually arrested — for having worn a talit “like a man.” Apparently wearing a striped-talit folded up onto the shoulders, instead of a small colorful one that is more draped around the shoulders, is “behavior that could lead to endangering the public peace.” This is now a criminal offense in this democratic state. My friend was one of four women arrested that day for this offense. This is unlike any experience in months past.
I have a very hard time wrapping my head around this entire situation and was very grateful when WOW posted a piece from Lorraine in her own words. Knowing her well, I can hear her speaking to the police and see her sitting in the police station, but even if you can’t, I am sure you can imagine some other loving and gentle yet passionate woman in your life in her shoes.
Take a moment to read the post and really think about it. I’ll wait.
Regardless of how one feels about the halacha here, I think it is hard to argue that it should be a criminal offense to wear a large striped talit, which the government has declared to be for men and not women. The kotel is not a (insert-denomination-here) Orthodox synagogue. It is a communal holy site for all Jews, and the fact that one can be arrested for praying in a way which is widely recognized and authenticated is abhorrent. Israel is a democracy, and it takes great pride in being unlike the regimes which surround it, but I have to say that when I read about Lorraine’s experience (as well as those who get hit, kicked, spat on, and more in other parts of the country for various “reasons”) I’m not so sure we’re really keeping up the standards of inclusivity and democracy we claim to have.