Today I joined the Women of the Wall in their monthly prayer group that meets at the Kotel, the Western Wall. We stood at the far right rear of the women’s section and when the first Charedi woman started to scream the chazanit invited everyone to stand closer together and need step further into the tight crowd. “Assur Assur” one woman yelled “you can’t sing there are men hear they will hear you.” She wasn’t moved by the fact that we didn’t seem swayed. Another woman was ranting about we were making a laughing stock of their Judaism and that Christians would kill us Jews if they went to pray in their churches. I’m not sure if the analogy was that we were as foreign to the Jews at the Kotel as Jews in a church and that we should be killed for praying out loud at the Kotel.
I had the shivers for most of the prayer. I don’t know if I have ever pushed myself into a place where people would yell in public at me. I didn’t like it. I have mixed feelings. I don’t know if praying at the Kotel specifically in a group is worth the fight. If I want to put myself in danger of being yelled at or much worse for this cause. Nor is it a particularly meaningful davening for me when people yell insults publicly. On the other hand to give up on the right seems absurd. Do the Charedim actually have more authority over the kotel than other types of Jews? Perhaps just once a month it is important to demonstrate that devoted Jews pray in different ways. Men cannot be the only ones who have the right to express their prayer in song at our holiest of sights!
If you are interested in more details, Women of the Wall have been fighting for years for the right for women to pray as a group and sing together at the Kotel. They are presently not allowed to do Torah reading a the wall because it provokes others to “disturb the peace” by throwing things and rioting. Recently their story was recorded in a documentary. I salute them.