In Israel, Jewish women of the group "Women of the Wall" (WOW) have long been fighting for their religious freedom to worship freely at the holy site of the Jewish people, the Western Wall. Over the course of the past 25 years, these women have been repeatedly arrested and detained for their desire to pray when they want and wear what they want while doing so, including the prayer shawl and Tefillin, which is usually reserved for men.
After years of conflict with the authorities, these women have been granted permission to pray without fear of arrest via a court order. But in a new twist, a new organization made up of zealous, ultra-Orthodox women has emerged to fight back against the protest group.
The counter-protesters call themselves “The Women for the Wall.” Though they do not use violence like many ultra-Orthodox men who spew hate, they are opposed to WOW because they believe the organization is coercing women to change their traditional method of prayer that has been set in place for thousands of years. Hundreds of supporters of WOW are now forced to pray in a corner, protected by police, while ultra-Orthodox men and women jeer at them to drown out their singing.
To put this struggle into context, the Western Wall is located in the midst of Jerusalem and has become the most sacred spot in Jewish religious and national consciousness. Because it stands at the center of Israeli society, if women’s rights were won at this site, it could revolutionize other aspects of Israeli society.
From marriage to politics, unspoken religious rules dominate life in Israel. Although the court granted WOW the right to pray freely on April 24, they continue to confront opposition from rabbis who oppose the group's challenge of patriarchy by choosing how they want to pray.
It is difficult to shatter patriarchy rooted in religion, a mindset that has developed over thousands of years and many generations of teaching.
What do you think? Should WOW be teaching it is wrong to continue practicing Judaism the way it has been taught, or rather teach that there is simply another way to pray? If a woman chooses to continue praying in the way her traditionalist rabbi has taught her, is she not empowered?
Share your thoughts with me on Twitter: @Cualania