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May these young women unlearn all the hate

  • RabbiJuliaMargolis
When the month of Adar begins, it is understood that we should increase our joy. Adar is the month in which we celebrate Purim, and it is a time to be filled with much happiness.
by Rabbi Julia Margolis, SACRED chairperson | Mar 22, 2019

Being part of the 30th anniversary of the Women of the Wall (WOW) Rosh Hodesh prayer at the Western Wall (Kotel) on 8 March brought sadness when we were shoved, pinched and abused. Young girls spat at us; the one in front of me told me that it would be better if I were dead. My reply to her was that, rather than spitting in my face, she should serve her country in the Israel Defense Forces, just as I had protected her and her community in my youth with pride as an officer in the IDF. Here she was in her own youth, being taught to hate and discriminate in the most horrific manner possible. She was hating me simply because I wished to pray at a wall that has tremendous significance for me and my family, a number of whom had tragically perished simply because they were Jewish.

WOW included women from all over the world: Israelis, Olim from the former Soviet Union, Conservative, Orthodox and Reform women. The Israeli government had voted for and approved a plan in 2016 according to which women would move their services to the southern section of the Western Wall, known also as Robinson’s Arch.

The state was to upgrade the platform and allow women to gather in egalitarian prayer, but in 2017, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reneged on his undertaking. No doubt, this came after substantial pressure from the ultra-Orthodox parties in the government. When I walked to the existing prayer plaza, I realised that the promises to renovate it had been broken and nothing was done.

It all made sense – the cursing and being prevented from praying – when I arrived back in Johannesburg with bruises and my Tallit torn. I realised how everything had been orchestrated: young girls and boys were taken out of schools and bussed to the Kotel with one purpose, namely to hate, harass and intimidate. This was more important than to be at school.

Progressive Jews all over the world have historically been huge supporters of Israel over the years. Yet we face continued religious discrimination in Israel in every realm of religious life. We cannot marry or bury our own members, we have limited or no access to holy places, and so the list goes on.

Representatives from all over the world at the Kotel that day were mentally and physically shocked. My prayer is that those who’ve been taught discrimination from childhood will in time choose a better and more enlightened path. I salute those brave Women of the Wall and, indeed, those that stood side by side with them. We all understand that women have a voice and power, and we are no longer invisible. These women are changing history and are real pioneers. We at the South African Centre for Religious Equality and Diversity (SACRED) stand with you.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Jeremiah Wasserman 04 Apr
    I am a non-Jewish reader of SAJR. Perhaps, because of the intolerance which that seems to have become an almost natural way in which we tend to interact with those who are not part of "our group", I was deeply touched by Rabbi Margolis' report about her and other members of Women of the Wall at one the holy places in Israel.
    Her use of the acronym WOW took my mind back a number of years to, probably the 1980s. I was employed by Carlton Paper - at the time owned by the Kalmanson family. At some time, one of the competition companies launched a pop-up facial tissue product in a square box with a polka-dot design. It was a first in the local market and soon almost became a must-to-have. Carlton Paper simply had to have a similar product and although the company did not have the type of equipment that could produce an interleaved product, we launched a look-alike product named WOW. It was a total marketing disaster - the first time sales were good but no retailer placed a repeat order while we had loads of stock waiting to be shipped out. The WOW trademark had become dormant in a matter of months.
    Then, during the 1980s, by which time Kimberly-Clark Corporation (K-CC)of the US had taken over Carlton Paper and also owned all the locally registered trademarks, K-CSA received a letter from a Jewish Women's Organisation, I think situated in Cape Town, requesting that ownership the WOW trademark be donated to them.
    I was the local administrator of the K-C trademarks that were registered in countries south of the Sahara, so I contacted my US correspondents, motivating a release of the company's registration of the WOW trademark and permission to transfer it to the Women's Organisation. In hindsight, it could have been to the Women of the Wall organisation or, perhaps, it did not yet exist during the 1980s?
    May G-d bless their efforts to achieve the goals they have set for themselves.          

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