Left Out: News from the Western Wall
When I had the chance go to the Kotel, or the Western Wall, I was able to walk up to the men’s section, find an open section of wall, and run my hands over the coarse, grey stone that I’d heard about ever since I learned the letter aleph. I had an unexpectedly intense connection with my Jewish identity, the kind of clichéd connection I thought only existed in the stories of Birthright trip promoters. I treasure that experience, but I know that part of the reason I was able to have that experience was because I’m fortunate. As a man, I could wear a tallit at the Kotel without being arrested, and I could go to the spacious men’s section instead of the crowded, smaller, women’s section. Because of these things, I was able to have a much better experience than my female counterparts.
We’ve heard about how women are often silenced at the Kotel, an injustice that has been fought for years by Women of the Wall, led by Israeli activist Anat Hoffman. This week, however, we were reminded that some women face particular challenges regarding religious expression after reports that a transgender woman was refused entry to both the women’s and men’s sections. After having been embarrassed in front of her friend that was visiting her, Israeli wedding dress designer Kay Long posted on Facebook,
“From a young age we learn that if we place a note at the Kotel our prayers might be answered… All that’s left now is to take a picture and say a prayer from afar with the hope that it will be answered. Because God is everywhere and loves us all.”
Our thoughts are with Kay and all people who are made to feel left out at the Kotel. Along with our partners at the Israeli Religious Action Center, we will continue to fight for a more inclusive Western Wall that allows everyone who feels so moved to pray as they wish.