So the latest installment of EWW GIRLS comes straight from Jerusalem, thanks once again to the men of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community who voiced their disapproval over a court ruling allowing women to pray at the Western Wall in a way that is traditionally reserved for men only.
Apparently, before the ruling, women were able to pray at the wall, but the interpretation of the law meant that they weren’t allowed to wear prayer shawls, phylacteries, or skull caps. For the first time they were able to use these while praying, and … well … it wasn’t taken too well.
Dressed in black hats and coats, mobs of young ultra-Orthodox men tossed eggs, water bottles and coffee cups at members of Women of the Wall as their leaders led a group of 100 men and women in prayer. […]
… hundreds of Israeli riot police held back the ultra-Orthodox men, who blew whistles, shouted insults and chanted in an effort to drown out the prayer.
Police, whom the youths called “Nazis,” arrested five men for disrupting the peace, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. As the women departed, some were pelted with rocks.
I don’t really have a horse in this race from a philosophical perspective, even if I’m glad on principle that the women were allowed by the court to pray as they wanted. The problem I do see is that we have adults – who are supposedly these deeply religious and devout individuals – acting like a bunch of spoiled little brats who throw temper tantrums every time they don’t get what they want. Tossing eggs, water bottles, coffee cups, and even stinkbombs? Shouting insults and chanting in order to drown out other people’s prayers? Pelting women with goddamned rocks? Look, I know throwing large, heavy things at people who violated ancient Levitical law was a big thing for a while, but it’s not anymore. That kind of stuff is against the law in secular society. It’s the 21st century, and most of the civilized world moved beyond that. They might want to consider doing the same.
This article goes into a little more detail about Orthodox Jews and their relationship with the remaining 90% of the population (check out Page 2):
The ultra-Orthodox make up about 10 percent of Israel’s 8 million citizens. For most of the last three decades, they have served in coalition governments, securing vast budgets for religious schools and exemptions from mandatory military service for tens of thousands of young men in full-time religious studies.
The system has bred widespread resentment among the secular and modern Orthodox majority. It became a central issue in January parliamentary elections, and ultra-Orthodox parties were eventually left out of the government.
Many Israelis also feel the ultra-Orthodox attempt to impose their values on the rest of society, with their activists pushing for gender-segregated buses and sidewalks, and trying to force women to dress modestly.
Boy, that last section sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? Thankfully, the moderate members of the community are working hard to ensure the safety of these women. Tzipi Livni is currently drafting a bill that would make the more outrageous responses seen during the protests the other day (throwing of objects, insults, chanting, etc.) illegal, while the attorney general is trying to find a way to set aside part of the Western Wall for both men and women to pray together. It’s encouraging to see that Israel is taking steps to bring Judaism into the 21st century and not cowing – at least too much – to a rigid fundamentalist minority that is obsessed with living as if most of the last 2,000 years haven’t really happened.