The other Women of the Wall

by Deena Nataf
Printed in the Jerusalem Post, 5/13/13

Tolerance works both ways, and so does respect. Doesn’t matter whether you understand why some Jews are devastated when they see you praying.

Before my first trip to Israel in 1977, the Reform Movement, which sponsored the trip, told the girls to pack a wrap skirt in their backpacks, so they could cover themselves at Jewish and Christian holy sites. When I came back in 1981 having spent my sophomore year attending an egalitarian minyan and reading from the Torah, I still kept a wrap skirt in my backpack so I could cover my shorts when I ventured into Geula or spent a Shabbat with Ger hassidim in Bnei Brak. When my daughter asked for special vegetables during the last shmita year, I took a bus to a distant makolet every week for a year to accommodate her.

My dear sisters, I love you and so do all the women with whom I prayed at the Kotel on Rosh Hodesh Sivan. All of us were heartbroken to see the riots, and I for one wish I could have protected you from the mob. I was disgusted at the hilul Hashem, and not one person I know feels differently.

Tolerance works both ways, and so does respect. It doesn’t matter whether you understand why some Jews are devastated when they see you praying.

Where is our right not to have you pray at the Kotel in this manner? By your insistence on moving from Robinson’s Arch to the Kotel, you are literally preventing thousands of Jews, many of whom have gone daily to the Kotel for years and years, from praying.

It’s not just a matter of “you do your thing and I’ll do mine.”

There is only one Kotel, and unfortunately there cannot be a win-win situation. I have absolutely no doubt that your prayer comes from the purest place. I know you are sincere and that you yearn for connection with Hashem as strongly as we do. But we all learned when we were toddlers that sometimes we don’t get what we want.

There is something called “compromise” in this world.

For the sake of Jewish unity – yes, your praying at the Kotel is doing more to splinter the Jewish people than any “fanatical” protests are – please discontinue your insistence on praying your way at the Kotel. There will be no place under the tent for us if you insist on your “rights.”

Please think twice about all those you are hurting by your actions.

The Book of Numbers is filled with census after census of the Jewish people. Long lists of names are recorded. The 12 princes all bring the same sacrifice, yet the Torah mentions each and every one of them individually. This is because each and every Jew is precious to Hashem. But we have to accommodate each other.

The Kotel issue is a biggie.

Worship however you want elsewhere, but please give us the same consideration as most Orthodox people give you. The chair-throwers are but a small fraction of our population. If you are as sincere about your love for Hashem as I know you are, then extend that love to include all of His children. Allow us to uphold the status quo at the Kotel.

The writer is an editor who lives with her family in Jerusalem.