The Women of the Wall were (you guessed it) praying at the Western Wall this morning like they do every Rosh Chodesh morning. At least, they were trying to pray; praying is made pretty difficult when rather large plastic chairs are being thrown at you from behind a mechitza that resembles a tent.
The work of the Women of the Wall is considered civil disobedience – a nonviolent fight for the right to pray where women have not been traditionally allowed to pray through doing the very act they are prohibited from doing. This is a historical practice, a form of protest that exists in the exertion of positive rights. It is the practice of the great heroes who have changed the world like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Alice Paul. Now, it is also the practice of Anat Hoffman and all those who pray with her.
But who was really being “disobedient” this morning? Who were the Women of the Wall disobeying? Certainly not their religion, a minority fraction of their government, and then the men on the other side of the wall who somehow think that they have the right to take away the religious entitlements of their wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers. It seems to me that the Haredi men throwing the chairs were the ones doing the disobeying and it was so far from civil.
These outbreaks are terrifying. They remind us of how far we have to go as Jewish feminists and they remind us of the ridiculous nature of some people who would interrupt their own prayers to throw chairs at women. One would think that if they were that into davenning they wouldn’t want to shave time off of a spiritual practice to hit women.
These outbreaks simultaneously help the movement because they show the irrational cruelty of those who claim they are the opposition and the sanity of the allies who instead of fight for equality practice it and resist the fight for inequality that comes in the form of chairs interrupting prayers.