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Dispatch from the front lines of Women of the Wall

To the Editor:

I would like to add my two cents to what people have and will be talking about today, because I was at the Women of the Wall’s service this morning.

I don’t get to the service very often, as I work during the week and am only free on Fridays. Over the years I have attended a couple of times a year. Even when I still lived in the Boston area and served as a congregational rabbi on the North Shore, I often managed to attend. I remember, before Robinson’s Arch, going with Women of the Wall from the back of the Ezrat Nashim (women’s prayer area) up the stairs (Torah in a duffel bag) to a small archaeological park with an amazing view. And I’ve been to the Robinson’s Arch part of the wall for the Torah service several times.

It sounded like, after the recent court decisions, that women would be free to don tallit and tefillin in the women’s prayer area itself. The court ruled that this is not illegal.

And so, I got up at 4 a.m. this morning and traveled to Jerusalem full of anticipation with two other women from Ra’anana, which is a bit north of Tel Aviv.

The service was marred by the “call to arms” yesterday in a number of communities in Israel for young women students to come to the Kotel prayer area by 6:30 a.m. (Women of the Wall’s service begins at 7 a.m.) and fill up the entire women’s prayer area. Indeed, hundreds — if not more — young people did exactly that. The area where Women of the Wall usually pray together at the back of the women’s prayer area was completely filled with young Orthodox women protesters who didn’t exactly understand what they were doing there and had not only filled up the prayer area but milled around in huge numbers outside of that area as well.

Eventually, Women of the Wall began their service outside the prayer area (immediately behind it) because there was no other space. I give a lot of credit to the shlichot tsibur (prayer leaders) who, in the face of very loud jeering and whistle-blowing and shouting and other shenanigans from the back and sides of the men’s section, led the women in prayer and song. This, despite the obvious attempts to make a mockery of the Rosh Chodesh prayer service.

I saw the daughter of one of the women participants in the service get hit in the head during the davening by a rock that was thrown. At the end of the service, as we were preparing under heavy police guard to leave the area of the Kotel, I was hit in the head by a half-full water bottle lobbed from the jeering crowd. I picked it up after regaining my composure and took a look at the label. It read: “Brachah” (blessing). So indeed, I received a “blessing on my head” this Rosh Chodesh Sivan at the Kotel.

Rabbi Dr. Ilana Rosansky

Ra’anana, Israel

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