The response of the “righteous women of the Kotel” to my donning a tallit never delayed in coming: every Rosh Hodesh I could expect a different type of “blessing.” Curses in Hebrew and Yiddish, venomous treatment toward me and my tallit, and speculation regarding my gender and religion: “A man in the women’s section!” “He’s not even Jewish!” “Perhaps she’s dressed up for Purim?”
I tried not to hear. I tried to concentrate on my prayers and to pray to God “who blesses His people Israel with love” that He should bless His people with the love of man for His fellow man. How can I pray for the building of the Temple when the people are not ready for it? When someone performing a biblical mitzvah is derided and ridiculed?
One Rosh Hodesh, when I had finished my prayers and was making my way out from the prayer area, I suddenly saw a group of tallit-wearing women standing and praying
together. It was my first meeting with the Women of the Wall — Conservative, Reform and Orthodox women who have been meeting to pray together every Rosh Hodesh over the past 21 years. Some wear a tallit, tefillin or a yarmulke, some do not: each according to her religious outlook. I immediately felt that my place was with them.
Each month we suffered verbal violence. The police looked on with amusement. The high court had decided some years ago that prevention of violence is justifiable grounds for the police acting to avoid an “offense to public sensitivity.”
We were forbidden to continue praying with ritual objects, forbidden to read from the Torah in the women’s section. We were allocated another space, away from the main Kotel plaza, a place for second-class citizens, in which we could pray without, God forbid, forcing the offended public to be exposed to the brutal sight of women performing the mitzvahs of tzitzit and reading the Torah.
The morning of Rosh Hodesh Kislev, November 18, was a cold Jerusalem morning. We stood, 42 Women of the Wall, and prayed in the women’s section. Our tallitot were hidden under our coats; the sefer Torah was in its regular bag. There was no booing, no pushing, no shouting.
We were surprised that our service passed off without any disturbance, and we thought that, perhaps, they had already become accustomed to our presence and that we could even read from the Torah, opposite the stones of the Kotel. Then, just moments after we had removed the sefer Torah from its bag, two men entered the women’s section and began abusing us.All we wanted was to conclude our prayers in peace, so we decided to forgo the Torah reading there and go, as on every other Rosh Hodesh, to read the Torah at the alternative site. As we were exiting with me carrying the Torah, a policeman met us and began forcefully pushing me toward the nearby police station.
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