It's still beautiful and moving, but recent decades have done something strange to the 'Kotel,' our first stop along the deconstructed tourist trail. What happens when a site is the object of both religious longing and military identity? Read part one of The Beaten Path, 'An introduction, or how to ruin a good story' There are so many advantages to not being a tourist. For one, I know the best way to get to Jerusalem from Tel-Aviv. Busses only reach the main terminal, which is located on the western outskirts of town and requires a further trip by the light rail.…Read More... | 2 Comments
Official Israel loves to boast of the complete freedom of worship it grants to members of all religions. In reality, however, it’s just another deception brought to you by your local 'hasbara' dealer. By Orly Noy One of the main tools in the Israeli hasbara toolbox is the ‘religious freedom’ discourse. As subscribers of the “villa in the jungle” worldview, Israel advocates never miss an opportunity to emphasize the religious freedoms that Israel supposedly gives to believers of all faiths, unlike its Arab neighbors. Prime Minister Netanyahu, especially, loves to make this claim -- and he repeats it ad nauseam.…Read More... | 8 Comments
The past 15 years have seen a revival of Jewish extremist movements seeking to upend the status quo around the Temple Mount in the name of multicultural ideals. Betty Herschman says failing to see through this veneer could lead to the enflaming of one of the world’s most combustible hotspots. By Betty Herschman The current intensification of religious extremist activities on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif is not a new phenomenon, but rather the ultimate realization of a slow, decades-long crusade. The story behind today’s mounting pressures - from increased attempts to ascend and pray on the Mount to legislative challenges to…Read More...
The Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif is one of the most complicated and sensitive issues on Israel’s agenda, activating friction points between Israel and the Palestinian population, and the Arab world at large. Over the past several hundred years, a status quo has been maintained according to which the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif area is an area reserved for Muslim prayer and the Western Wall is a prayer area reserved for Jews. Over the last decade, the status of these areas has gradually shifted, driven by a revival of activity by Jews determined to strengthen the status of the Temple Mount complex as a…Read More...
Nothing in Israel, or in the Middle East, is disconnected from anything else. Yet the issue of women’s religious access to the Kotel is treated, especially in North America, as if it exists in a vacuum. By Aryeh Cohen The story of Women of the Wall begins with the Wall. The story of the contemporary Wall begins with the Six-Day War in June of 1967. It begins not on June 7, when the Old City was captured and David Rubinger took his iconic photograph of three battle-weary Israeli soldiers standing in front of the Wall, nor even when the paratroopers’…Read More... | 9 Comments
While the running debate at the Western Wall has been over women’s prayer, Jewish men have been playing a supporting role in shifting 'local custom.' Women of the Wall may be exactly what their name implies: women. But standing and praying in solidarity with them this month were several dozen Jewish men. In between police barricades and the familiar fence enclosing the women's prayer area at the Western Wall Plaza, were about 30 Jewish men – Israel-born, immigrants, secular, Reform and Conservative, young and old. They came out to support approximately 300 Jewish women – many in religious garments traditionally…Read More... | 4 Comments
For the first time in 24 years, Israel Police protected nearly 500 Women of the Wall members Friday morning as they gathered at the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem for their monthly prayer service. The women were confronted by thousands of ultra-Orthodox protesters, both young girls who watched from the side and men of all ages, who acted violently towards the group of women. Protesters reportedly threw stones, water bottlers, garbage and whatever else they could in their direction, and a few were reportedly arrested. The police managed to enable a small group of 20-30 women to actually reach the women's section…Read More... | 8 Comments
Hundreds of women - including MKs Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), Stav Shaffir (Labor) and Michal Rozin (Meretz) - gathered at Jerusalem's Western Wall in honor of Rosh Hodesh (first of the Hebrew calendar month, today, Nissan) Tuesday morning. They joined the usual group of women from the Women of the Wall movement, who go every month at 7 a.m. to pray there on the other side of the barricade separating them from the men - but are often harassed and prevented from doing so - and even at times, arrested. According to the regulations at the Western Wall, as determined by its chief rabbi, and…Read More... | 18 Comments
Anat Hoffman, longtime crusader for the advancement of progressive Judaism in Israel and a tireless activist for the rights of women to partake in religious traditions, was arrested last month while saying the Shma prayer at the Western Wall. Hoffman, the Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center and one of the founders of Women of the Wall (and a former Jerusalem City councilwoman) is no stranger to the law: it was the sixth time she has been arrested. Yet she says she has never been charged. When I interviewed her nine days later at a conference in Germany,…Read More... | 16 Comments
Head of Women of the Wall was held in custody the entire night after trying to pray at the holy site while wearing a prayer shawl - a practice reserved only for men, according to Orthodox Judaism. Three members of Women of the Wall (Neshot Hakotel), a group of Jewish women which seeks to conduct prayers and read from Torah at the Western Wall, were arrested by police in the last 24 hours, during the "Rosh Hodesh Heshvan" (new month prayers) at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. The head of the organization, Anat Hoffman, was arrested last night…Read More... | 31 Comments
From Pussy Riot to Women of the Wall, our male religious authorities are so intimidated by women mobilizing support for religious freedom and expression, that they feel the need to restrain, detain and jail this great potential for change. By Shira Pruce I admit that a few weeks ago, if you asked me, “What do Women of the Wall and Russian punk band Pussy Riot have in common?” I would have had a good long laugh while waiting for the punch line of your joke. However, since the arrests on Sunday, August 19, of four women at the Western Wall of Jerusalem, there has been nothing…Read More... | 4 Comments
After a group of settlers attacked a mosque in one of the villages of Ramallah in the West Bank, the Israeli army put checkpoints at the entrances of the closest settlement and checked the identity of every person going in or out of the settlement. On grounds of fear of escalation the police in Jerusalem decided to allow Jewish worshipers entrance to the Western wall only for those above fifty years of age. Many Jewish leaders protested the actions of the police especially as the closure of the Western Wall coincides with the Jewish high holidays. The police pointed out…Read More... | 74 Comments
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