'War' With Ultra-Orthodox Over Western Wall? Bring It On

Shocking Attacks at Kotel Galvanize Jews Around Pluralism

getty images

By Eric Yoffie

Published May 20, 2013, issue of May 31, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Third, the ongoing conflict means that champions of religious freedom, in both Israel and America, have refused to be bought off.

When a major religious crisis arises in Israel, particularly one involving American Jews, the script is generally as follows: The government offers a “compromise,” everyone applauds, a process is instituted to implement the plan, and interest in the issue, particularly in America, dissipates. Then problems arise, the compromise collapses (sometimes after dragging on for years), nothing is accomplished, and the whole cycle begins again.

The best example is the conversion issue; there have been a dozen conversion crises involving Israel and Diaspora Jewry, and innumerable attempts to resolve them, the most famous being the 1997 Neeman Conversion proposal. But conversion remains as much of a problem now as it has always been; the Neeman proposal resolved little, except around the edges.

And what all this means is that Women of the Wall and their American supporters are right to continue their fight until a satisfactory resolution is actually in place.

Fourth, the demonstrations were carefully orchestrated; if rocks were thrown, imprecations shouted, and women spit upon, Haredi leaders gave the green light for such behavior.

Respectful demonstrations would have been appropriate, but this is not what happened. In other words, what Haredi demonstrators did at the Wall reminds us of the willingness of figures in the Haredi community to resort to thuggery—and of the need for the Jewish world, the forces of Torah, and the government of Israel to stand firm against thugs.

And finally, the war at the Wall encourages us because it is a sign that there is a real chance for religious change in Israel.

Haredi leaders are rattled by what is happening at the Kotel, and even more rattled by the likelihood that their young men will be drafted and allocations to their institutions slashed. As these developments become more likely, a desperate reaction was to be expected — and the violence at the Wall is only the first round.

What this means is that the Women of the Wall are wise to keep up the pressure. And it is to be hoped that Israel’s political leaders, fortified by the January elections and the expectations of an impatient Diaspora, will retain their resolve as well.

None of this means that there cannot be a reasonable solution to current problems at the Kotel. In fact, there already is.

The April 24 decision of the Jerusalem District Court provides for women to pray wearing prayer shawls and reading from the Torah in the women’s section at the Wall. If the Government of Israel will fully support and enforce this decision — and will also back the Sharansky proposal, which provides a space for egalitarian prayer at the Wall — the Women of the Wall will be satisfied, Diaspora Jews will be exhilarated, and the forces of religious coercion will be defeated.

Until then, the Women of the Wall are right to stand firm. If that means a war at the Wall, so be it.

Eric Yoffie is former leader of the Union of Reform Judaism


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.