One area we discussed extensively was the subject of women. When asked whether he had found a good Jewish girl, he told me that he had found one once but “she got away.” Still single, he is currently taking classes in Judaism where the rabbis teach young people how to have a happy marriage. Young husbands are to treat their wives like queens and are to “talk, talk, talk” to their wives, especially during the first year of marriage. The rabbis also teach that children are a blessing and the Sabbath is for procreation.
I asked Sagea about the recent protests and arrest of Jewish women at the Western Wall during our trip. Known as “Women of the Wall,” Sagea said that the women want equal space to pray at the Western Wall as well as the ability to wear prayer shawls. According to their website the women claim that their central mission is “to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.” To the Western mind, this doesn’t seem like much to ask, but these activities are forbidden by law and opposed by the rabbis. An article by Moshe Averick titled “Women at the Wall: As if we don’t have enough trouble already” (April 15, 2013) expresses the anger of the orthodox Jews:
“For some time now they [the women] have been demanding the “right” to conduct feminist prayer services in the women’s section of the Western Wall. This includes the wearing of tallit, tefillin, and reading from a Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll); all of which violate Orthodox Jewish standards and are contrary to normative Orthodox prayer practices. It seems that for these women it is not enough to reach out to God with other Jews at the Wall in a way that does not cause friction and controversy. They are under the delusion that they can best serve God by offending other Jews, engendering disunity and disharmony, and most important of all: getting their pictures in the newspaper and on the nightly news. Who can argue with that logic? Everyone knows that what God wants most of all is for his children is to get good press by kicking up dust and provoking others to anger.” (http://www.algemeiner.com/2013/04/15/)
It seems that the complementation view of men and women is alive and well in Israel. Sagea believes that eventually, the Orthodox will give in to these women’s requests and adopt a more egalitarian stance in order to keep peace. He also said he could see where the women are coming from, but that there are less provocative ways of going about gaining equality.
Aside: In an unusual bit of coincidence, the Women at the Wall compare their fight for religious freedom to the reclaiming of the Western Wall after the Six Day War in 1967, when Jews were again allowed to worship at their most holy site. Photographer David Rubinger captured this moment with his photograph of paratroopers at the
Western Wall. One of these paratroopers is our beloved (and younger) Yehuda, seen here in this now famous photo. (Back row on the right.) In 2012, this same photographer, now 88, agreed to photograph the women leaders in tallitot with the Torah, in a reenactment of the 1967 photo.
Besides being separated at the Western Wall, men and women are divided by gender at synagogue. Sagea described the wall in the synagogue as one-way glass where the women can see the men but the men cannot see the women. “You see,” he told me, “it is to help the men focus on God. If the men see the women, they will lose their focus and be unable to pray.”
It was into this culture of gender separation that Paul admonished the women of the early church to keep silent during their assembly. “The women are to keep silent in the churches…If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.” (1 Cor 12) In order for a woman to ask her husband a question during a meeting of the church, she would have to yell over the wall–not exactly ladylike or orderly.
So the battle continues between the Women of the Wall and the male Orthodox rabbis. Walls remain between women and men in synagogue as well as between Jews, Arabs, and Gentiles. These walls seem insurmountable but like the fall of the ancient walls of Jericho under the leadership of Yeshua (Joshua), these modern walls will only fall when the Jews recognize another Yeshua as their leader—Yeshua Ha’Mashiach, the son of David.
“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace… “(Ephesians 3:14-15 NKJV, emphasis added)
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:26-28, emphasis added)
Geneva Chinnock, April 15, 2013
With gratitude to Eric Arthurton for his excellent state side tech support for DrWalterBramson.com during this trip.