This is my first private visit to Israel after completing my term as President of ARZA Australia but it has changed my view of many things there.
When planning my trip I realised that I would be in Jerusalem for Rosh Chodesh.
My last attendance at a Rosh Chodesh service in June 2012 saw 2 people detained. Since then every Rosh Chodesh a Service has been held led by Women of the Wall (WoW) and Anat Hoffman.
On arrival in Israel I met people in the days leading up to the service saying there was to be a protest by our movement. Sandy Hollis ARZA Vice President was in Jerusalem to attend ARZENU meetings and the Va’ad Hapoel meetings and I together with Charles met at the Dung gate at 6:15am on Thursday 2nd November. On arrival there was a large group of Rabbis both men and woman with Torahs and many others supporters from Israel and around the world. The group was estimated to be 200 plus . We assembled and readied ourselves to walk to the Women’s section carrying Torahs. We did not know what to expect. We sang as we walked tall and proud to the security entrance of the Kotel. To my surprise there was no security check and we were all allowed to enter the Kotel.
Sadly skermishes broke out. The people carrying the Torahs were targeted. They held on tightly to the Torahs and delivered a total of 12 Sifrei Torah to the women’s section. The women formed a circle around the Torahs and the service began. An amazing service.
A couple of older women tried very hard to interrupt the service by blowing whistles and wearing protest signs on their backs. Small children ran around our group and tried to disrupt us. The woman continued to pray while the men stayed in the woman’s section at the outer edges.
At the conclusion of the service the woman walked onto the Kotel and another service was held led now by our Rabbis both men and woman. We left the Kotel singing with our heads held high.
This Supreme Court has said that a decision about the egalitarian prayer space must be finalised by the 17 November.
This was a very special day to witness history. At some time in the future I believe there will be an egalitarian space for men and woman.
Many in Israel and also many young people don’t feel effected by this decision. For the overseas Jewish community this victory has been made by the publicity Anat Hoffman has brought to the matter and the huge support of ARZA members around the world.
There are many more issues to consider. Currently only a marriage conducted by an orthodox Rabbi is considered legal in Israel therefore many go overseas to marry and then return to Israel for a chuppah ceremony. Perhaps this will be one of many issues that will confront us in the future.
ARZA Immediate Past President