These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Rosh Chodesh Sivan 5773 at the Kotel

Posted on May 13, 2013 by Laurie Franklin

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I went to the Kotel on Rosh Chodesh Sivan expecting to pray, and I did. I was surprised that I could focus on prayer in the volatile atmosphere; the hullabaloo made me concentrate even harder than usual. “Ozi v’zimrat Yah” never had greater meaning for me than it did on Friday morning as I stood with several hundred women and men on the Kotel plaza, praying for the welfare of the world in the new month of Sivan.

I came to welcome the month and to celebrate the new court ruling that allows women to pray in tallitot and tefillin at the wall. What a wonderful reason to rejoice: I could sing, dance, wear a tallit, and not fear arrest! Even though the government is discussing the Sharansky plan, I am convinced that the Women of the Wall need to continue to pray as they have for the last 25 years until a viable long-term plan is realized. Those who oppose my presence as a praying woman in a tallit do so because they are accustomed to a place of exclusivity at the Kotel and have no desire to accommodate other forms of Jewish worship. They see my prayer practices as illegitimate and have no interest in pluralism. They repeat false information about Women of the Wall and demonize its members and supporters. So, although my foremost reason for coming to pray at the Kotel is devotional, secondarily, I come to affirm my place in Judaism.

We prayed in the midst of a protest “pray-in”. If the folks on the other side of the protective police line had confined their actions to prayer, it might have been a beautiful experience, but instead, they spat, threw water, food, chairs and other objects, and hurled taunts and curses. Someone called me a Nazi; several seminary women shoved me and threw a Women-of-the-Wall siddur to the ground; and men hollered, blew whistles to interrupt the prayers and rushed the police lines. The hatred directed at us was raw, a circus of unpleasantness.

Nonetheless, there were also beautiful moments: songs of the Psalms rising with great intensity from our mouths into the morning air; a bat mitzvah on the Kotel plaza; men and women side-by-side, praying together as the sun rose over the Temple Mount and filled the plaza with light.

During Musaf, as I prayed the Amidah silently, I heard a group of men singing Hallel in the men’s section of the Kotel, the same, familiar melodies that we sang earlier. For a few moments, the place seemed more peaceful, and I thought, “this is the way it could be here: just people praying—no fighting words, body-checking, or flying objects—just prayer.”

On Rosh Chodesh Sivan, I prayed for the elevation of the souls of the people yelling at me, and I hope some of the protesters prayed for me. I pray that, soon in our time, we can all worship in peace at the Kotel.