As a teacher in an Orthodox boys’ school, I’m told to leave the room for prayer times. The message to my students is clear.
Israel already has gender-segregated classrooms, playgrounds and buses. Now, some buildings have divided elevators so observant men can ride apart from women.
Simi Lichtman could see her husband-to-be across the mechitza in shul. But she still found it unsettling experience to be apart from him.
Over the recent (and somewhat endless) round of high holidays this year, I came to some disconcerting realizations about my attitude to shul-going as a woman and a feminist.
As a rule, my husband and I don’t pray in non-egalitarian settings (or, at the very least, in ones that don’t count women in a minyan). So while I have been following the progress of partnership minyanim with respect and interest for a number of years, I hadn’t participated in one on a Shabbat morning until recently, when I attended the bar mitzvah of a friends’ son.
These days, we’re hearing about more ultra-Orthodox men who are turning to increasingly hateful tactics to prevent women from praying as they wish on their side of the Western Wall’s mechitza. Recently, they hurled chairs over the divider, even before the women had a chance to begin their davening. Once the police were called, the chair-throwing stopped; two men were arrested.
Every time I read about the ongoing Women of the Wall saga, I am filled with sorrow. As I picture Jew fighting Jew, a woman being roughhoused by police, fingerprinted like a common criminal, my heart is heavy. Their fight is reminiscent of that of Rosa Parks. All these women want is the same treatment as men. How could one group be allowed to monopolize a national holy site?