Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Freedom to Pray at/on the Kotel

Some of you may have noticed a rise in the public discourse regarding the Woman of the Wall's monthly push to change the status-quo of prayer sections at the Kotel plaza.  Some people are calling it "a prayer for equality" and the NY Times recently featured the topic and how the Israeli Supreme Court might review the issue.  This is an apolitical blog and seeks to stretch and inspire new thoughts on the topic of tefilla.  To that end, I wanted to share this issue with the readers and note the following parallel.

The argument made by many of the advocates for change regarding the prayer policies at the Kotel is that it is religious discrimination at singular place of religious significance to the Jewish people, not just orthodox Jews.  The Woman of the Wall's homepage features "liberators" with a juxtaposed picture of the 1967 IDF paratroopers with three woman with there tallitot and siddurim. The headlines have noted that woman have been arrested for wearing a tallis - attempting to point to the absurd nature of the current policies.

It is interesting to note that the same population of Jews are not applying the same logic and argument to those who feel that the Israeli police do not let them pray or wear at tallis at holy Jewish spot.  Those who want to pray ON the Kotel, to go up to Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount) are dully checked for any prayer paraphenalia before ascending and watched closely by a police escort to prevent and outward davening (I myself have been up on a field visit and had my benchter taken from my wallet by the police).

Even though a Jerusalem Court ruled this past October that Jews should be permitted to pray on the Temple Mount, the Israeli police enforce a Muslim ban on Jewish prayer, "citing security concerns".  Interestingly that this is a similar concern that the Israeli police have regarding changing the status-quo at the Kotel plaza. Indeed Jerusalem religious institutions do not deal well with change (one only has to read about the "Immovable Ladder" outside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher) - and I admire these women's determination to push their agenda through civil disobedience, but hope to see some similar expression of legal practicality to equal expressions of tefilla in the same arena.

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