I’ve traveled to Israel and have seen the Western Wall – or Wailing Wall – in person. It’s an extraordinary experience, and while I was there I had to separate from the men to the “Women Only” section. I was surprised to learn that this custom of separation was introduced so late in history – it only started it’s modern form of gender separation in 1968.
Recently, Rabbi Elyse Frishman was among four women who were arrested in December after wearing a tallit (a prayer shawl) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The gender discrimination women face in Israel is intolerable, said Frishman. She explains further: “In 1968, the orthodox rabbinic created a mechitza, which is a separation between men and women at the Western Wall. And the understanding here in a very traditionally observant manner, in an orthodox manner, is that men are obligated to pray. Women are not. The Orthodox have deemed this site to be a synagogue.”
“As we drew near, there’s a security gate that you need to walk through. And within a couple of minutes, a policeman came up to me and asked me to take my tallit off. They took my passport. They fingerprinted me. They took my photograph. And they wanted me to sign a statement that I knew why I was being detained and I understood. And I refused.”
Certain parts are reprinted with permission from Odyssey Networks.