I am Jewish too...
I have been living in Israel now for a little over a month. It is difficult to believe so much time has passed already. I have been to the Kotel a number of times since I arrived.
I have covered myself in ways that I normally would not, because it is required. My body is considered a distraction when in a tank top or shorts. You can not get through security as a woman without being "properly covered." This is just one of the many rules in Israel that makes me feel Iike "the other." It makes me feel like the Kotel is not a space for all Jews, but a space only for Orthodox Jews. Everyone else who wishes to visit must conform to their laws.
When I walk through an orthodox neighborhood, I cover myself in order to be respectful. They have made those streets and those shops their space. They have separated themselves from the rest of the community in order to live their lives in the way they prefer. This, I can respect. This, I can understand.
But the Kotel...it is a public space that is sacred to all Jews. The fact that the government here chooses to ignore the voices and opinions of the rest of the Jewish population does not change that fact.
I attended רוש חודש (Rosh Chodesh-celebration of the
beginning of a new month) this month with Women of the Wall. The experience was both moving and disturbing. It was my fourth trip to the Kotel since I arrived in Israel, yet the first time I wore a Kippah and wrapped myself in Tallit. I could feel the רוח (spirit) praying out loud with these women. It was one of the most beautiful prayer experiences I have been a part of. However, we were behind temporary fencing that separated us from the rest of the women. So now, not only were we not allowed to pray in the same place as the men, or even have equal space to pray as the men's side, but we were cornered off to the front of the women's section. We were far from the wall, so we could look,
but not touch. Women, men, and children blew whistles and screamed at us. A group of orthodox women did their best to scream at the top of their lungs in an attempt to drown out the sounds of our prayer. Though I was not afraid by this experience, I was very disheartened.
The following day, we found out that the Kotel agreement had been shut down by the Israeli government. Though this
was not a huge surprise, it was extremely disappointing. So I did the only thing I knew to do, join the protest. On Saturday night at sundown, I gathered with hundreds if not thousands of other Jews in front of the prime minister's home in Jerusalem, just minutes from where I live. Together we ended Shabbat and began a new week with Havdalah. It started with one lane of the road being blocked, but quickly turned into a street full of people blocking the traffic. Although my Hebrew language skills are weak, and I could only understand some of what the speakers
were saying, I knew why I was there. I was there to show the world that my Judaism is in fact Judaism. That I deserve equality as a woman and as a Jew. I proudly stood in that crowd and held my Women of the Wall sign that read כולנו נשות הכותל (We are all Women of the Wall). Another sign held by one of my friends read ביבי גם אני יהודי (Bibi, I am Jewish too).
As a leader in Judaism and future Rabbi, I will continue to stand tall and speak loud about what I believe is just. I will not stand by in silence while the government, here in Israel or back home in the United States, fails to understand the meaning of equality, or recognize its importance.