Australia’s Progressives protest arrests of women at the Kottel

December 19, 2012 by J-Wire Staff
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The Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ) and the Australian Reform Zionist Association (ARZA) echo the outrage expressed by their global organisations (WUPJ and ARZENU) at the latest arrests of four women seeking to pray at the Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Steve Denenberg

Steve Denenberg

Four women were detained by Israel Police on Friday morning, after donning Tallitot, or prayer shawls, at the Western Wall. The women arrived with Women of the Wall, a group of Orthodox, conservative and Progressive Jewish women who fight for the right to wear Tallitot, pray, and read from the Torah out loud at the Western Wall.
The detention took place on Friday morning, the seventh day of Chanukah “It is difficult to believe that as Jews around the world celebrate the victory of spirit over forced assimilation, other Jews are forcibly prevented from praying in the capital of the Jewish State,” said ARZA President,  Barbara Ford.  “The Supreme Court has called on the State to find a resolution and, until that happens, Israel is failing miserably in fulfilling the promise of its Declaration of Independence to provide a haven for all Jews and to provide freedom of religious practice.”
The first woman detained on Friday was Women of the Wall board member Rachel Cohen Yeshurun, who refused to remove her prayer shawl as she entered the Western Wall Plaza. According to other members, she was detained and interrogated even before she approached the holy site, accused of disturbing the public order and of obstructing a police procedure.
The other three women – Rabbi Elyse Frishman from America and two 18-year-old British women participating in a World Union sponsored Netzer gap-year program in Israel – were held and interrogated. According to a statement by Women of the Wall, all four refused to sign an admission of disturbing the public peace and were released after three hours.
Women of the Wall representatives said they were told by police that a new decree had been issued that morning, forbidding women to enter the plaza with Jewish holy articles – Tallitot, or prayer shawls, and tefillen, or phylacteries.
“It is time that Jews everywhere realise that this is not a matter of concern just for Progressive Jews, it is an attempt by a small group of ultra-religious people to dominate the public sphere of religious worship’” said UPJ Executive Director, Steve Denenberg “Every Jew who believes that Israel is the spiritual home for all Jews must condemn these actions.  We are heartened that at the recent AGMs of both the Zionist Federation of Australia and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry resolutions were passed condemning these actions and supporting the call from the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for the State of Israel to resolve the matter in a way that allows all Jews to pray in peace at the Kottel.”


21 Responses to “Australia’s Progressives protest arrests of women at the Kottel”
  1. Liat Nagar says:

    Dear Otto,
    You are in fine spirit today! And your account of the knife sporting dramas of the Balkan genre does true justice to them insofar as graphic imagery and misplaced passion is concerned. Mmmm, the woman as staple victim … sounds familiar, of course the problem now is women are decidedly not into being victims.

    If an unhappy wife condemned to the end of saucepan stays in that position long enough, she wouldn’t have the spirit or the wherewithal to spike anybody’s gefilte fish.

    I think you’ve given yourself some composition motifs or ideas, and done so most imaginatively and graphically. You’ve something of the writer in you, Otto. Quite seriously, see where it might take you.

    warmest regards,

  2. Otto Waldmann says:

    Dear Liat

    just a moment, simplistic lyrics yes, but some of them are quite famous, in spite of the story, e.g.

    1.”La donna e mobile ”

    2.” Bella figlia del amore
    Schiavo son di viezzi toi ”

    3.” Chi mi frenna in tal momento !!”

    4.” … e si je t’aime, regarde a’ toi !”

    5.” .. ej Cica eszem azt a chop kiss szad ”

    6. ” Ya lyublyu tebya, lyublyu na smyertye ! ”

    7. ” In diese heilige maurren “.

    I am offering a prize to anyone who can identify the operas/opereta ( no. 5 is a giveaway ) to which each aria belongs – spellink mistackes notwithstanding .

  3. Liat Nagar says:

    I agree with you that the lyrics of operas are often simplistic, and certainly not great in any way insofar as words put together. And, yes, of course, it’s the music that should be, and is, the focus here. Still, I’m not so sure that the women are so incidental as ‘women’ in the scheme of things here – we’re still being subjected to attitudes of the times in this regard. As to the ‘outer suburban Bucharest tragedies’ where the women kill themselves to spite the ‘curvas’ next door, I guess that’s a slightly better thing to do than the actions of men who kill themselves and/or their children contemporarily, to spite wives who don’t love them any more or have taken up with another! I can’t figure that either. Perhaps it all boils down to excess sense of self.

    Re the Orthodox women who go into marriage eyes wide open due to their already having grown up with that way of life, I’ve often thought about the fact that most of us do all manner of things with our eyes wide open, while not realising that we haven’t actually looked and seen.

    Sorry this response is a bit late – I have many freelance writing deadlines at the moment.

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      Dear Liat
      from the vantage point of making “adjustements’ ( unsolicited !!!) to Judaism, as in the Progressive version, to changing the well established outer-subburban Bucharest traditions is quite a leap of …faith.
      Sorry, but the cannons of blood spurting, knife sporting dramas of the Balkan genre demands that the woman is the staple victim , “preferably” coiled in her own blood mixed with the dust of the unsealed roads and uravelling in the hot seasons, dry weather. Why all those preconditions!
      If raining the blood will be washed instead of streaming erratically for all to enjoy for hours on end. Winter freezes the same blood, although stark red stains on the virgin white snow are quite a popular scene, trouble is that the same insalubrious quarters are always covered in that dust, even in winter, so the famous virgin white snow is just a dream, blood stains included.
      You should see the eyes as wide as cart wheels astonished by the spectacle, never mind what the fully aware bride goes into more or less in the same facial mode. Mind you, an unhappy wife condemned to the end of saucepan can always spike the gefiltefish, thus adjusting the unwanted moods of the dining “innocent” spouse…………………ever thought of it !!!

      Now ,have I given you enough composition motiffs /ideas !!

      All that stuff so closely related to Anat Hoffman, ain’t it !!??

  4. Shirlee. says:

    Dear Liat and Otto

    Please let me suggest you read this piece. Quite enlightening

    “Is it appropriate for a woman to wear a tallit?”

    Meanwhile, I wish you both a happy and healthy year with hopefully some peace in the World

  5. Otto Waldmann says:

    Dear Liat

    In regards to the subject “matter” of operas, I beleive that the stories staged and are of very low importance, as in some cases the lyrics are not treated with sufficient attention in spite of the great music. In many cases they were transcribed fairly simplistically from popular novels or poetry of the time already well known by the opear going public. For a contrary exmple, those of Mozart’s based on the da Ponte’s writings are as rich and entertaining literally as the music accompanying them.
    In all cases, however, opera “literature” is primordially a musical event. This is why the “role” of the woman in opera is one of incidental relevance and, indeed, in certain periods of operatic creation, the female protagonist , as a matter of “cannon”, MUST suffer and…of course be left to the ultimate sacrifice, in some cases as the “right” desert. See poor Carmen or even Manon. Yet, in Aida, I see it that the bloke, Radames, is the one paying the ultimate price, albeit alongside his Nubian “bride”. Same in Lucia. The unfortunate Scottish las goes into criminal dementia – a medical condition !! – and , as a result, gives us perhaps the greatest soprano performance, but the unintended casualty is stubborn Edgardo, who kills himself , I reckon, because he ran out of female choices – some call it love ! Gilda in Rigoleto is simply so irrational – I nearly said stupid – that reminds me of the popular outer -suburban
    Bucharest tragedies where betrayed women would kill themselves ( usually by ingesting a famous rat poison called “Green of Paris ” ) to…punish their bastard husbands who found better offers next door. Go figure ! It apears that what they really seemed to aim at AND enjoyed , were their own huge , entire subburb-size funerals at the husband’s expense, of course, thus depriving the “curva” neighbour of those special treats ! .
    So much about opera…
    Otherwise I find it normal that women who enjoy orthodox observance do it with their eyes and minds quite open, well before that “fatal” date under the chupa.. How any women, or men for that matter, writers and composers can we cope with…………….(not to mention interior decorators ).

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      ………………I meant that not all writers can write as well as you do !!!

  6. Liat Nagar says:

    Dear, dear Otto,
    I bow to your superior and most comprehensive knowledge of Opera, and find it difficult to forgive myself, as one who nearly always wants to take care with words, for exaggerating my claim on the deaths of heroines in Opera. I stand corrected. I shall certainly follow up your suggestion of “Voglio che questo sogno …” (even these four words on the page are the height of poetry, such is the beauty of the Italian language) from Mefistofelle, by Boito. I am ignorant of it. However, I do know the story of Faust via Goethe. In fact it’s literature that is my forte. I’ve been steeped in it from the age of eight years, reading many of the classics between 11 and 13 years old. I love it for everything it’s given me, and continues to give me, in knowledge, possibilities, inspiration and sustenance.

    Mind you there are so many operas where women lead very unhappy lives, go mad and/or ultimately die. I guess I am thinking more of nineteenth century operas which tended to be post-Romantic in nature. In their tales of love they are sublime and passionate whatever the storyline and, of course, it’s the music that matters. I am not an opera expert at all, but do love Puccini the most, and also
    Verdi and Bizet. I am very affected by Tosca, Madame Butterfly, Turandot, La Boheme, La Traviata, Carmen, The Pearl Fishers and Lucia di Lammermoor. Perhaps you will consider these as ‘lighter’ fare?, but then I do have a lot to learn here. I am a little afraid of Wagner.
    Basically, as in life up until fairly recently (the last forty years), if women dare to step outside the parameters of society expectations in many operas they go their quick, or musically elongated, demise.

    I did not ever say that the life of women dedicated to ultra-orthodox requirements was constant gloom and doom, nor did I imply it. I, too, speak ‘lightly’ sometimes when discussing these situations. However, in all seriousness, the extremities of domestic servitude can be great, so great that they can affect ‘grand passions’, relaxed affections, and most certainly sustained creative endeavours. The only way you will ever understand this is for you to do it yourself. Perhaps as an experiment you could devote yourself to it for a minimum of two weeks without respite? After that you could extrapolate imaginatively what it would be like to do that for twenty or forty years, in continuity. And see how many books you might write, how many musical compositions you might compose, or how many paintings might flow from your brush. In choosing lives as curtailed as many of these ultra-orthodox women, even if content, it must be accepted that that more narrow world is their lot and not much else can be while they embrace it so fully and/or accept its imposition in entirety.. The problem arises if some women want more than that. And, of course, many do. Beware, Otto, as much as I like serving up a good meal to those I love and kindred spirits and sharing the experience of eating good food, being in the kitchen too many hours a day or too many days in the week, I can’t abide. I need to write my next poem. So, if we get on to the kitchen subject my lightness of tone might evaporate quickly.

    I enjoyed learning more about opera from you and as Shabbat is approaching I shall finish up here and light my candles. Shabbat Shalom to you, warmest regards and best wishes for 2013 (in Gregorian terms).

  7. Otto Waldmann says:

    Dear Liat

    There are lots of great operas where the heroine does not die, Cavaleria ( Turidu, poveraccio, e veramente mazzatto ), Evgeny Onegin, Marriage of Figaro, Cosi, Don Giovanni, The Abduction from Seraglio, most of Rossini’s operas, Falstaff, Die Zauberflutte – I’ll throw in an Aussie one” Summer of the 17th Doll’ – etc. And this is one of my points, Liat. I engaged in light entertainment, so to speak, on a topic that, indeed , can be dealt ad infinitum in more sombre tones. That is also because the life of those women dedicated to upholding the “rigidity” of Orthodox observance is not constant gloom and doom, not underlined by opression and enslavement. Just like the opeartic literature, the stage offers comedy, mandane life – Le Rondine, La Fanciula – , the whole gambit of opera buffa, all composed by the greatest, although Bellini died too young to alternate the lyrics.
    I invite you to listen to one of the greatest tenor arias, “Voglio che questo sogno…” from Mefistofelle, by Boito, where, faced with a tragic destiny, Faust still dreams of a life enlightened by poetry, a happy existence.
    So, I wish you and Shirlee relaxed delectation within the richness of the Jewish “repertoire” of values and life “styles” and a happy new year !!!

  8. Liat Nagar says:

    ‘These wonderful Jewish women plough along more or less regardless’: you said it, Otto … more fool them! they do themselves a disservice as well as other Jewish women to follow. There surely must be more humane and common ground to inhabit than the options of two extremes, chained to the oven or the inside of a police cell. Your reference to the choice of colour scheme inside the police cells is a cheap one and not worthy of you.

    I wouldn’t assume Anat’s life is devoid of passion or love because she has more ‘radical’ views than you and seeks progress in an area that you would prefer to keep sacrosanct to men. There are a few men around, you know, who might agree and who also might find her spirit and intelligence more than attractive. The women I on the one hand feel sorry for and on the other hand despair of, are those chained to the stove – I can assure you excess domesticity is not a huge or active contributor to love and passion. How romantic!, indeed. It doesn’t behove anybody to romanticise anything too much, including the ideals of living a good Jewish life by the book. Such are the complexities, vagaries and difficulties of the human psyche that the moment one pushes any idea to an extreme it changes in nature and becomes other. The way to keep something strong and good is to make necessary adjustments along the way – the tree that bends in the wind survives well, the tree that remains uprightly rigid breaks eventually.

    As to Giselle never reaching her dreams, that’s par for the course. To give you food for thought, I don’t think there’s an opera (yes, I know I’ve gone from ballet to opera) written where the lead woman doesn’t die at the end. Who wrote the operas? Men. Don’t think I don’t love these operas despite so many passionate, wonderful women meeting their tragic deaths, Otto, because I do. Every fibre of my being is affected by them – they’re wonderful in their musical exposition of human situations and feelings, and many of them are truthful (in a melodramatic way), too, rather than romantic, showing the women in all their ultimate anguish – although having to kill off the heroines is going a bit far. It’s a question of women now, not allowing others to take away their dreams and the possibilities that exist for them. In effect, we all have dreams, men and women, and more often than not we might attain elements of the dream, but I would venture to say, never the whole dream in its entirety.

    Who am I, as a big-hearted woman who loves to give joy (especially to men who deserve it), to take away your pleasure in the pirouettes Shirlee and I might provide, although of course I can’t and shouldn’t speak for Shirlee.

  9. Shirlee. says:


    Hob shoyn genig !!

  10. Otto Waldmann says:

    Dear Liat

    I must admit that thoughts of regret did occur when deciding to engage in low weight thougths on the subject, with the specific purpose of irrittating and prompting into action the cute and joyful likes of you and Shirlee. While enjoying your reactions I also felt less than generous with my occasional disposition for unberufen mirth……..
    There must be some element of social cohesion, a desire for emptahy when the endless travails of the Jewish mother/wife is let out in the necessary kvechings. Yet, these wonderful Jewish women plough along more or less regardless, perhaps knowing that only dedication, hard work can keep that Jewish flame alive, such an appropriate simile for Chanukah alone. How would you like an analogy between the hard work while chained at the stove to the restless climbing on the barricades of struggle against the establishment of the Hoffman surority and the respective complaints against the arresting authorities and, why not, the terrible choice of colour scheme inside the police cells !!
    Otherwise I enjoy keeping you girls in the best of ballet practice, on your points and think of poor Giselle, never reaching her dreams. Can imagine Anat in her tootoo sacrificed on the altar of passion and love for progress……….. How romantic !

  11. Liat Nagar says:

    Dear Otto,
    The ‘joyous nature of Chanukah’ cannot necessarily be enjoyed by all Jews everywhere – as an individual, consider yourself fortunate that you yourself are able to enjoy it unimpeded. It cannot be enjoyed as it should be by those, men or women, who are disenfranchised, persecuted, or suffer any other actively pursued efforts to make life less fair or miserable. Let us not assume that every Jew everywhere in the world is simultaneously experiencing joy during Chanukah. Just who exactly is having fun and who is paying for what? There are an enormous number of Jewish women within the Orthodox tradition who spend the days of chagim chained to the kitchen and oven like the unpaid slaves they are, unable with a clear brain and rested body, to pray, contemplate, reflect, or otherwise disport themselves … not much fun in that. (I used to teach English as a second language to Israeli adults between 2004 and 2006, and the tension and stress evident in some of the women students with the approach of some of the Jewish festivals was palpable (they were already contemplating the magnitude of what they would have to do just before and during these times), and their exhaustion on their return to classes was most evident.) I do realize that Chanukah is not as onerous in demand in this regard as other chagim, however the fact still remains that men and women should be able to participate equally in prayer during this Festival of Lights, preferably without police intervention!

    As to the size of the protest, when in history, at the outset with change only mooted and sought by the minority (often though on behalf of the majority) was the size anything other than small? Slowly, slowly, Otto … determination and patience is required here. I thought one of the ladies in question, Barbara Ford, President of ARZA, was quite clear in her exposition of the issues, when saying “It is difficult to believe as Jews around the world celebrate the victory of spirit over forced assimilation, other Jews are forcibly prevented from praying in the capital of the Jewish State.”

    I think you’re quite wrong that rubbing the establishment in Israel the wrong way cannot yield results – kowtowing didn’t ever get anybody anywhere; and at some stage the Supreme Court will be brought into it, which also will have its effects. At the end of the day the Israeli establishment is going to have to concede that women make up half the population, couldn’t be done without insofar as their contributions are concerned, and must therefore be seriously considered and listened to with a view to change, stubbornness of officialdom notwithstanding. As to the dynamism of a healthy Israeli family life, that will be irrevocably enhanced if women are able to take their rightful place living a Jewish life.

    warm regards,

  12. Liat Nagar says:

    Bored housewives, kitchens, broomsticks, lady-jokers seeking middle-aged glory: surely you can do better than that, Otto. Can’t you see the age-old stereotypes you’re bringing in here (in much the same way as many people stereotype Jews – and sometimes they say they’re joking)? You might assure Shirlee that you’re joking, however behind most jokes are elements of truth more serious. And often people joke or behave in cynical fashion to avoid discussion that is more serious; of course, in so doing they do not accord any respect to the issue at hand, which is precisely what you are doing.

    ‘Habitual progressive irritation”, you say. Yes, well it’s not going to go away for the sake of the comfort of those who already have what they want within the practice of Judaism. As for Jews enjoying the festival of joy and the implication that that shouldn’t be disturbed, it wouldn’t have to be if everybody could enjoy it in the same way.

    Really, Otto, I can’t let you get away with such cant., despite your warm humour and other positive traits that are probably too numerous to mention here. I suppose all the suffragettes earlier last century should have flown off on their broomsticks never to be heard of again, too! Just as well you weren’t around then.
    warmest regards and shabbat shalom,

    • Shirlee. says:

      Well said Liat and good shabbos

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      Dear Liat, you don’t really want me to do “better than that” !!
      One other reality, to which I alude to in my comments, reveals that the size of the protest has also been habitually so insignificant that the targeted “objects” of these cyclical spectacles must be sharing far more cynical quips than my modest contributions. This is also well in keeping with the joyous nature of Hanucah. To this extent, the ladies in question ( a humorous type of rhetorical one such as ” We got your message and are sure glad you didn’t get ours because we are having fun and you are most certainly paying for it…” sort of stuff simile of ) are not progressing (!!!) at all in explaining the issues you have so clearly lined up.
      The irritants are as such because rubbing the establishment the wrong way cannot yield results in a society, such as Israel, where stubborness of officialdom has PRECISELY the simile of the dynamism of a healthy Israeli family life. This is also to say that I can predict with some accuracy that the next instalment ( to wit that there shall be NO variations in the scenario ) at the Wall will take place on or around February 10, 2013 between 11.30 am and 1 pm followed by arrests and press releases as releases of the precious Amazons will proceed orderly…………..while Anat Hoffman shal parade once again the scars of her hyperactivism to the, now habitual public LOL.

      Incidentally, I can do better than that, but for now have a warm and good Shabbos !


  13. Otto Waldmann says:

    It is difficult to believe that, when Jews are cellebrating a festival of joy at the survival of Judaism, some people think it appropriate to resort to provocations precisely at the holliest of places.
    I strongly belive that , by deserting their kitchens and the broom sticks, those brave yentas have only proven that a redundant circus, clowns included, has, once again, arrived in town…….
    Now the bored housewives are famous !!!

    • Shirlee. says:


      That is uncalled for. I realise you are are joking. Well I hope you are.

      But really?

      • Otto Waldmann says:

        Shirlee dear, of course I’m joking, but what’s also unberufen is all this habitual progressive irritation on the one theme while all the respective lady-jokers are achieving is getting arrested for about five minutes in search of some middle age glory…

  14. Shirlee. says:

    I see this as fanatics on both sides trying to change the religion. Neither side practices Orthodox Judaism

  15. Liat Nagar says:

    The police told the women a “new decree had been issued that morning forbidding the women to enter the plaza with Jewish holy articles” – the question is, who issued this decree, the State of Israel, the Mayor of Jerusalem, or the Board of Orthodox Jews who administer the Western Wall? Another question: why are the police getting involved with this situation at all? Especially, if their involvement is merely on behalf of those who are ‘administering’ the Wall. There would be no disturbing of the public order if the women were left alone to pray in peace.

    The whole thing reads like the Middle Ages or before, although there wasn’t a separation barrier at HaKotel in those times.

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