Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has assigned famous former dissident Natan Sharansky an impossible task that The Daily Beast's Dan Ephron calls "almost cruel in its complexity." No, it's not brokering peace in the Middle East, but coming up with some sort of compromise between Jewish women who want to pray at Jerusalem's holy Western Wall and the ultra-Orthodox men who think women should be seen and not heard and maybe not reaaally seen, either.
Women of the Wall, an organization founded by Israeli feminists who have been holding their own prayer service once a month for decades (only to be regularly confronted by police; last October, group leader Anat Hoffman was actually arrested), believe they have just as much of a right as men to pray aloud, read from the Torah, and wear religious garments. The ultra-Orthodox caretakers of the site call those practices an "abomination," since women are prohibited by law from carrying/reading from a Torah or wearing prayer shawls there. But the women say the ban distances reform and conservative American Jews from Israel.
"The fact that Israel took the keys to the holiest site and handed it to one faction can't continue. The Jewish world won't accept the criminalization of our action," said Hoffman, who is also a leader of the Reform movement in Israel. She wants the rabbis to allow the women just one hour a month to worship at the Wall in accordance to their own customs, a right she won in a Supreme Court ruling in 2000 but lost on appeal three years later.
"For three weeks now, Sharansky has been meeting with representatives of all sides-rabbis, lawyers, activists, and even archeologists who have excavated the Western Wall Plaza-to try and formulate bridging proposals," The Daily Beast reports. Tradition is tradition — but sexism is also sexism, and the Western Wall, the holiest site in Israel, should belong to all Jews.