By Simon Rocker
November 30, 2009
There's been a lot on the net about the recent arrest of a woman for wearing a tallit at the Western Wall. Here are the views of Reform head Rabbi Tony Bayfield:
"It should have been the climax of our holiday. In fact, it was the only big let down. I was in Israel this summer with my daughter, son-in-law and two older grandchildren. We had a brilliant walk through the Old City and came to the Wall.
"Francesca, who is eight (going on eighteen) was decidedly unimpressed. In fact, she was really put out. Why were women and men separated? Why was the women’s section so small? Why was she made to feel less important than the men? It’s not that she is on the lookout for these things. The reverse. As a pupil of Akiva School, a regular at Alyth and the niece of Rabbi Miriam Berger, discrimination against women came as a shock and a mystery.
"I have just read that an Israeli woman, a twenty-eight year old medical student, has been arrested by the police for acting provocatively and upsetting public order. She wore a tallit and held a Sefer Torah in the cramped women’s section at the Wall!
"It isn’t merely ridiculous. It’s a symptom of the hold that Israeli society has ceded to ultra-orthodox fundamentalism. And the issue doesn’t end there.
"Absolutist and discriminatory beliefs have turned the act of wearing a tallit and praying into a dangerous act of incitement. What other inequalities, what other acts of discrimination are also enforced by State fiat because they are seen as a threat to an outrageous, supremacist view of Judaism and the Jewish people?
"This issue touches the very soul of Israel and the Jewish people."