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The Cross of Bethlehem II

When Judaism marries Feminism

American Rabbi Elyse Frishman Arrested at the Western Wall



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Several years ago, I was preaching in my congregation about "Women in the Ministry of Jesus." The topic was unusual; thus I got the attention of everybody. After ending, I returned to my seat, next to Fidel. Ignoring the service, he turned towards me and asked several questions that related to Feminism; he was asking me about gender equality. I had the suspicion that his wife had asked him to interrogate me. His wife and four daughters were listening to us; his son was elsewhere. Answering his concerns was impossible during the service. Instead, I opted for a shortcut. "How many children do you have?" I asked.
He was surprised by the unexpected question. I knew his family well. Yet, he complied. "Five," he said hesitantly.
"How many of the five were you pregnant with?" I asked with a smile. They all laughed.

Rabbi Elyse Frishman Arrested

On December 14, 2012, American Rabbi Elyse Frishman was arrested at the Western Wall by the Israeli police after she attempted to conduct a Rosh Hodesh morning prayer ("Month's Head" in Hebrew, the beginning of a Hebrew month) at the esplanade of the Western Wall. This activity has been going on for 24 years despite the opposition of the Western Wall Rabbi; it seldom ends in violence. The main struggle is legal; both sides are attempting to restrict the other with the unwilling help of the Israeli courts.

It will be impossible to write this article for the sake of an international audience, without dedicating a few words to the attitude of Israelis to American Jews. Near the northern edge of Tel Aviv there is a problematic Zionist institution known as the Land of Israel Museum. Somehow, there is nothing belonging to the Palestinian culture and nation on display there. The institution conducts the prestigious HaKatedra Strategic Friday lecture series, which has already provided sizzling content to this website. Anybody invited to speak there is Zionist and Israeli aristocracy, or closely related to them. On March 16, 2012, the museum hosted Hebrew writer A.B. Yehoshua. He likes to be described as left-wing, but he said in the Italian La Stampa that even before the Operation Cast Lead—which was awarded the title "terror inflicting" by the UN—he had published an appeal to Gaza residents urging them to end the violence, and "the Israeli operation was necessary." That fully justifies the “B” in his name; it stands for his nickname, “Bully” (this is not a joke). On that occasion, he said, "American Jews are only partial Jews while Israeli Jews are total Jews, in no way are we the same thing - we are total and they are partial; we are Israeli and also Jewish. In recent years, my friends and I have needed to defend … as if it is merely an issue of citizenship, while Israel is the authentic, deep concept of the Jewish people ... in no siddur (prayer book) is there a mention of the word 'Jew' but only 'Israeli.’ The name of our country and the territory is Land of Israel - and it is about this deep matter that we must defend against a Jewish offensive." He kept talking about American Jews inability to speak proper Hebrew, especially their obsession with bastard Yiddish, that German-Hebrew hybrid contraption.

Elyse Frishman

Elyse Frishman Arrested in Israel
On Judaism and Feminism see Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics

Jewish feminists originated in the USA; thus, they were bound to make poor decisions while giving themselves titles in Israel. Part of the negative attitude towards them in Israel relates to this. For example, the abovementioned woman, calls herself "rabbi." Despite what English speakers think, the word "rabbi" is unrelated to "teach;" it is derived from "rav," which means "much." It is an honorific; if one calls somebody else "rabbi," he is saying "my-much," or in better English, "my superior." Moreover, it is a masculine noun. Any woman using it is bound to become a joke. In proper Hebrew, the feminine form is "rabbanit," as explained in The Jewish Fatherland and the Death of the Admorit. When an Israeli hears a woman calling herself "rabbi," he immediately recognizes an American Feminist who cannot speak the Old Language. Rabbi Elyse Frishman practically begged to be arrested.

Western Wall Esplanade

Western Wall Esplanade

Dressed like Men

Dressing styles depend deeply on culture. In Myanmar, men favor long wrapped skirts. The same garment would be almost unthinkable almost anywhere else. The picture below shows Laura Wharton, which together with Rabbi Elyse Frishman is a central activist of "Women of the Wall," an organization whose goal is to let women hold and read the Torah and to wear religious garments at the Western Wall. She was arrested together with Elyse. Both are Americans, and they apparently fail to understand that in their new location they are dressed like men, and use masculine titles. Wrapped around her wide, square shoulders is a tallit, a prayer shawl worn over the outer clothes during the morning prayers; despite what it may look like to Westerners, it is a masculine garment. Look at this from the local cultural angle, instead of looking as if they are conducting a religious act, they seem to be engaged in systemic desecration of a holy place.

"My God! How can you say this! You are a women-hater!" Feminists across the world might exclaim after reading the previous paragraph. Yet, the same women will probably take off their shoes while entering a Buddhist temple, or a Muslim mosque. Without further thinking, they will not accept the formal rites and customs of Christian and Jewish temples. They have a conceptual inconsistency.

Laura Wharton

Laura Wharton | Arrested at the Western Wall while dressing like a man


Jewish Wars

The current event was cooked up over for a long period of time. There were three stages. At first, women were allowed to wear a tallit as long as it didn't look like a traditional one; thus, they used colorful clothes. Later on, regulations were changed; women were allowed to wear a tallit only as a scarf around their necks, in a feminine fashion. Last week, the regulations were made stricter, women were forbidden to enter the esplanade with a tallit or a siddur prayer book. The abovementioned women did exactly that and were arrested. They were detained for three hours and requested to sign a document stating that they would stay away from the Western Wall for 15 days. They were released with a warning that should they be detained at the Western Wall again, they will be fined NIS 3,000 (roughly $750) each.

Jerusalem police claim to be enforcing a Supreme Court decision from 2003. The High Court of Justice ruling issued by nine justices, led by Chief Justice Aharon Barak accepted the ruling written by Justice Mishael Cheshin, "I've considered this matter, I've turned it over again and again, and in the end I reached this conclusion: the right of women at the Western Wall is what allows them to worship at the Western Wall in the manner of their choice...but the right of the women petitioners to pray as they see fit at the Western Wall, like any legal right, is not absolute." In other words, they can pray there, but following traditional customs.

Rabbi Rabinowitz is responsible for the Western Wall; he claims "to be trapped between two sorts of extremism, that of the extremist Haredim and the fanaticism of the Women of the Wall." He added to the Hebrew media, "They don't come to worship, they come to demonstrate, every month they come and stir up a new provocation, so as to attract the media. They tried to bring in Torah scrolls, they deliberately sing loudly, and they do these things to create a fuss." The public prayers of the women show him to be right; Women of the Wall do not appear at the site if journalists are not there.

After stirring their unholy stew for a while, I finally found a sign of their Jewishness. Rabbi Rabinowitz defined them as conducting yet another Jewish War, that ancestral practice of attacking each other. A long time ago, I published Jewish Wars: “Terrorists in Black”, an article analyzing several such events. In one of them, Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolfa (English spelling may vary) said that all members of Israeli security services that participate in operations against West Bank Jewish settlers are "Terrorists in Black." He added: "the terrorists in black – that’s how they were, covered in black clothes, with no identification marks, with no names, I don’t know if they were Jewish, Arabs, terrorists or somebody else… - if they come to fight me, I’ll fight back. This is not a sane police, this is not a sane army… there is nobody here to talk with. The special forces shoot in all directions as if we were Nazis." He continued an interesting tirade – defining Netanyahu as a "Tzorer," a "troublemaker" to the Jews - and attacking the Israeli Supreme Court. "Nowadays there are two persons in the world that fire on citizens: Gadafi and Barak," he summarized. He was referring to Ehud Barak, Israel's Minister of Defense.

Women of the Wall are not different from Rabbi Wolfa, and from many of the organizations related to Israel that I often review. Unable to respect others, they are engaged in an endless war against culture, traditions, other humans, and God. Rabbi Wolfa I agree with you: Israeli institutions are nothing but internationally criminal. Changing the color of your tallit or the way you wear it will not change that. May God reach you.

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