Israel accused of ‘cowardice’ over mixed gender prayer area

Israel accused of ‘cowardice’ over mixed gender prayer area

Anat Hoffman, chair of the Women of the Wall group, has lashed out at the the Israeli government’s decision to freeze a plan to open a mixed-gender prayer area at Jerusalem’s Western Wall.

Hoffman, pictured above with two paratrooper veterans, called the government decision an “outrage.”

I think it shows cowardice. For two years we negotiated in good faith with the government. And then today they decide that it is null and void, that they’re not going to implement it, that equality is out the window

Israel had approved the plan in January 2016 – a compromise reached after years of negotiations between Israeli and American Jewish leaders and Israeli authorities. It was seen as a significant breakthrough in promoting religious pluralism in Israel, where the ultra-Orthodox authorities govern almost every facet of Jewish life.

But the plan was never implemented as powerful ultra-Orthodox members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government raised objections to the decision after they had initially endorsed it. Under ultra-Orthodox management, the wall is currently separated between men’s and women’s prayer sections.

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman spits on a member of the liberal Jewish religious group Women of the Wall. The group was attempting to enter the women’s section of the Western Wall while carrying a Torah scroll. Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP

Netanyahu, trying to placate both his coalition partners and wealthy liberal Jewish donors, had promised the new $9 million (around £7 million) plaza for mixed-gender prayer would be established. On Sunday, he ordered top aides to formulate a new plan but said little more. In another controversial decision his government promoted a bill to maintain the ultra-Orthodox monopoly over conversions.

American Jews, who have long lamented that Israel should be as accepting of their religious practices as they are of their financial support, have been pushing for the new prayer area. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, has warned that if the deal did not go through it would lead to a rupture with North American Jewry.

The liberal Jewish groups had accused Netanyahu of delaying implementation because of pressure from the two ultra-Orthodox parties that maintain his narrow coalition. They have already petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court to implement the decision and still hold out hope it will overturn it.

Arieh Deri, head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, said he was pleased the government blocked a plan that would have harmed the “sanctity of the site.”

Preserving the status quo of the Western Wall reflects the will of most of the people. There is no room there for destructive factions whose only purpose is to desecrate the site.

But Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, one of the few dissenting votes, said freezing the plan:

Represented a severe blow to the unity of the Jewish people, to various Jewish communities and to the relations between Israel and the Jewish diaspora.

The Times of Israel reported in 2013 that women are not allowed to wear prayer shawls or phylacteries or to read from the Torah at the wall. Any religious ceremony “not in accordance with the custom of the holy site and which offends the sensitivities of the worshipers at the place” can incur up to six months in jail or a fine.

Hat tip: BarrieJohn

28 responses to “Israel accused of ‘cowardice’ over mixed gender prayer area”

  1. Stephen Mynett says:

    So, the Israeli government is at the mercy of a few religious bigots as it hangs on to power, aren’t we lucky in the UK to live in a democracy where something like that could never happen.

  2. barriejohn says:

    What did I say on another thread earlier today? However progressive many members of religious sects may become, they will always be at the mercy of that stubborn “remnant” (a name that they often use for themselves in both the Jewish and Christian faiths) who “seek to remain true to the principles of their faith”. I saw this time and time again amongst the Plymouth Brethren, and I have to say that the most bigoted and extreme came from Nor’n Ireland!

  3. Har Davids says:

    I love the picture of the spitting woman, telling the world she doesn’t want to change her position in society as a second-class citizen, especially not if other women are involved.

  4. Johan says:

    Oh dear. The acrobatics and gymnastics of the pious over pathetically absurdly trivial nonsensical petty issues are just fantastic. Pure wanton stupid stubbornness.

  5. Johan says:

    Sorry O T. Lord Carey resigns. Good. But now he must be charged as an accessory to the crimes of Ball, be expelled from the house of Lords and be made to give up any other honourary positions he holds. And the Lambeth list must be published ao all can access it.

  6. Cali Ron says:

    What is that black box thing on the head of the woman in the grey striped top? A new Jewish headdress? Human black box? A modern version of the tin foil hat?

    A woman spitting on another woman. She looks older than 10 years, but she doesn’t act like it. Nothing like proving to the world how irrational and intolerant you are, way to go Israel!

  7. Paul says:

    Cali Ron
    Israel has never been tolerant.

    The black box thing is a go-pro capturing all the days intolerant action.

  8. nullifidian says:

    Not sure whether you are joking about the black box??
    It’s a Tefillin
    Origin: Hebrew, phylacteries. These are the small boxes containing the words of the Shema that are traditionally wrapped around one’s head and arm during morning prayers.
    Maybe they receive one at their Bar Mitzvar to keep condoms in.

  9. Cali Ron says:

    I liked the concept of a black box that records all their sins for god to check on their death. But no, just another silly religious practice left over from the goat herders.

  10. L.Long says:

    We all know that women are nothing more than breeding sex slaves according to the books o’BS of the abrahamic delusionals! An easy solution ladies…quit the damned religion! Or put up with its dogmatic BS!!! Because if the gov’mint puts a common place aside, you will still be considered less important than jackasses!

  11. DOM says:

    What do they expect from a country controlled by religion? Besides have these women actually read their own religious material because if they have they wouldn’t want to be religious.

  12. andym says:

    Israel was, in the past, claimed to be , a secular state. Then it was said to be the nearest thing to that in the Middle East. In horse racing, there is such a thing as a “walkover”. That’s when there is only one horse lined up at the start and, however poor , will win.(In fact,I’m not sure it even has to complete the course to be declared the winner.)

    Not that we have any reason to be smug in the UK today.

  13. 1859 says:

    Reminds me of when I was a kid in Liverpool watching an Orange Lodge parade. Suddenly there was a hail of stones and bottles sent flying over the crowd into the marchers. I thought they were thrown by male hooligans. When I turned and looked it was a huge crowd of catholic women hurling anything they could at the ‘Prodies’ below.
    Now here we have one Jewish woman spitting at another Jewish woman. If ever examples of the thoroughly disgusting absurdity of religious belief were needed, these surely must qualify. One fossilised brain spitting at another slightly less fossilised brain – and both think they are doing their non-existent god’s work! It would be funny if it wasn’t so, so pathetic.

  14. Robster says:

    ‘Spose one bright side of this is that the ladies can avoid the whole silly carry on and behave like regular adults. Talking to one’s self cannot be considered normal.

  15. 1859 says:

    Second attempt…..This reminds me of when I was taken to see an Orange Lodge parade in the North of England as a kid. Suddenly a hail of bricks, stone and bottles rained down onto the marches. When I turned to see who was doing this – I’d expected a bunch of male hooligans – I was surprised to see a group of jeering young and middle-aged catholic women screaming insults at the ‘Prodies’ and tossing bottles and even bags of what later I learned was human shit.
    Now we have Jewish women spitting at Jewish women. What an example of how seriously fossilised by religion people’s brains can become. This spitting woman has been turned into a depraved and disgusting human being simply because of an imaginary belief system . It would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic.

  16. tonye says:

    Forgetting about regional politics.

    But, I’m going to try to tread carefully with my next statement. So please take it in that context.

    It’s no secret that Jews punch way above their weight in nobel prizes thus benefitting us all. They also built a 21st century country from a hole in the desert in roughly 20 years.

    I have respect for that.

    However any country run by, and for, religion is never a good thing and will always try to drive the people back to the dark ages.

  17. Jobrag says:

    Do these people realise how stupid they look. With all the problems in the ME they concentrate on mixed gender prayer areas, it takes religion to make people that stupid.

  18. barriejohn says:

    @tonye: But they did have massive support from the US. The same is true of Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, etc. (not solely for altruistic reasons, I must say!). People say, “Look where the Oriental economies are today compared to Africa!”, but we continue to exploit African countries, and now the Chinese are up to the same game. Africans will wake up to find all their natural resources gone and only a few crumbling school buildings to show for it. Incidentally, America’s approval rating under Trump has fallen everywhere in the world except for Russia and Israel!

  19. barriejohn says:

    @tonye: But they did have massive support from the US. The same is true of Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, etc. (not solely for altruistic reasons, I must say!). People say, “Look where the Oriental economies are today compared to Africa!”, but we continue to exploit African countries, and now the Chinese are up to the same game. Africans will wake up to find all their natural resources gone and only a few crumbling school buildings to show for it. Incidentally, America’s approval rating under Trump has fallen everywhere in the world except for Russia and Israel!

  20. Bart says:

    The Jewish Diaspora thrives and mostly, apart from small ghettoes of fundamentalist freeloaders, smoothly integrates into society. Can this be said of the muslim diaspora that mostly seems bent on disruption, separation, segregation and the dragging down of the hosts down to the levels of poverty and ignorance from whence they came. Just divide and contrast the number of Nobel Prizes for Science / By the number of faith adherents and then tell me that the Jews are not doing something very very right. Then look at the record of islam at making the world a better place through scientific endeavour.

    Jews contribute bigtime. Muslims in general retard and beggar.

    Sorry to put it that way but the facts and data irrefutably support that argument.

    Yes the Jews have a contingent of fundamentalist nutters but on balance it is plain which group is the better for the human race … and by a huge factor.

  21. Trevor Blake says:

    It’s all orthodoxy, it’s just a different set of definitions of orthodoxy. One definition is in power, another wants the power, both say they are doing what their god wants them to do.

    My atheism holds nothing sacred, although I do have my preferences as to how things should go. I have yet to commit murder or rape anyone, as theists keep telling me I will do without belief in god and hell to hold me back.

  22. barriejohn says:

    Barry : I replied to @tonye’s comment about an hour ago. Was my comment received, or do I need to post another?

  23. Barry Duke says:

    Nope, BarrieJohn. Despite our best efforts, comments are STILL going into spam and trash folders. A message to commenters: please, PLEASE comment just ONCE. If your comment does not immediately show up, it will do after I check the spam and trash folders.

  24. tonye says:



  25. barriejohn says:

    Barry: Thanks. I usually try (on any site) to post comments one more time if they fail, in case the fault is with me!

  26. 1859 says:

    OK Barry that makes sense.

  27. Richard Ashley says:

    From my perspective, a devout and committed Atheist, I find both parties particularly pathetic.
    To witness such aggressiveness and disgusting behaviour reflects on the person and says it all as o the low standards he keeps.