Category Archives: Women’s Rights

JEWISH WOMEN ON THE MOVE

The Women’s Liberation organization was one of the major movements of the 20th century. Across the world, women objected to not being able to vote, to hold significant political office, and to not be recognized as equal to men in terms of their rights and prerogatives. That battle continues in countries like Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. This new important status is now being sought in interesting ways in Israel and around the world where Jewish people are established. Jewish women are definitely a new force to be reckoned with.

A recent battle ground occurred in the space next to Jerusalem’s Western Wall (once called the Wailing Wall). Rabbi Shumuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites, has maintained that custom determines the practices at the wall in particular. However, a group of women are now  challenging what is considered appropriate. Their defiance has brought legal consequences.

On February 11, during the service for Rosh Hodesh Adar, women showed up wearing the black and white  tallitot (prayer shawl) worn only by men. If they had worn other colorful coverings of the same shape, there would have been no problem. When they tried to break custom, 10 women were immediately arrested, including Anat Hoffman, the founder of Women at the Wall or WOW. These women were protesting the control that the orthodox Jews have over the wall. And the battle was on.

One of the ancient arguments within Judaism has been about change. As Fiddler on the Roof  told the world, tradition is a major element in Jews faith. How women conduct themselves at the wall was set when Israel captured the area. However, the women protest that the times are changing. They ask how does change occur in Israel if men are intransigent. They also protest that two-thirds of the space in front of the wall is held by men while women only received one-third. Answering the protest of the WOW group, Rabbi Rabinowitz argues that they are turning prayer into a protest. He objects to protesting before the Wall instead of in their synagogues. Anai Hoffman isn’t buying it. The battle goes on.

On the other side of the world, the Hassidic Chadbad Movement just completed a conference of 1,700 women who are emissaries from around the world. With conversations in French, Russian, English, and many other languages, these women gathered from as far away as Thailand to explore topics like improving schooling, coping with special needs children, relationships in their own families as well as coping with disappointments. While an extreme branch of the Chadbad group maintain that Rebbe Menahem Sneerson is still alive and in hiding, not so for these women who are mostly wives of rabbis. Their focus was on the here and now and fulfilling mitzvahs (good deeds) to make the world a better place.

These remarkable women raise children while focusing on the needs of other women around them. While the Hassidic movement is often considered  conservative and prohibitive, one would find these women on the cutting edge of fulfilling the tasks that the Torah (Old Testament) assigns to women.

One might say wow! to them as well.

Make no mistake. The women’s movement does have a spiritual component.

1 Comment

Filed under Israel, Judism, middle east, Women's Rights

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT IN 2013?

In a word … a mess!

            With Egypt, Syria, and Iran fighting or getting ready to fight, the signs aren’t good. While Iran hasn’t made headlines lately, you can bet they haven’t slowed their pursuit of a weapon grade supply of enriched uranium.  Only time will tell whether the Palestinian efforts to establish statehood at the United Nations will be of any value or only destroy further attempts at an agreement with Israel. At the least, turmoil will continue.

The situation in Egypt is not clear. Many who voted for the new constitution only did so in an attempt to establish stability. The turnout was meager. Even though the majority voted for the document, the opponents vow to continue opposing it. From the standpoint of constitutional government, the military has remained neutral while maintaining a stabilizing factor. However, concern for the future is clearly on the horizon. Egyptians remain deeply divided.

Secular-oriented representatives in the parliament have resigned in protest. They charge that the constitution will enshrine Shar’a law. Women’s rights as well as those of the Coptic Christians will be in trouble. The parliament which has a 75% radical Islamists majority will not back away from the imposition of Islamic law. While the United States provides an enormous funding for the Egyptian economy, it also supported  the Mubarak regime. Good news; bad news.

We already have learned that radical Islamists do not pay attention to the difference the dollar can make. The truth is that the Muslim Brotherhood will interpret matters considerably differently from the former Western-oriented, anti-Islamists state. the United States had best prepare for a rocky road ahead.

An ominous sign was the order for arrest of opposition leaders to President Morsi’s government this past week. Internationally known Mohammed El-Baradei, a Nobel Peace laureate and former head of the U.N. nuclear agency, along with former Foreign Minister Amr Moussa are charged with undermining the legitimacy of Morsi. Such police state tactics reflect the Hosni Mubarak era. Moussa said, “if we accept the legitimacy of working within the system, they have to agree that the opposition is legitimate.” Egypt is far from out of the fire.

Hezbollah lost status because of the Syrian uprising. While the terrorist organization has been a dominating force in Lebanon, they are losing ground fast. When the Assad regime craters, there will be unsettling consequences for the entire region. Such conflict in Beirut has pushed Hezbollah to the side. After the fall of Assad, they will be diminished even further. The bottom line is that Hezbollah’s days of dominating Lebanon are numbered and the terrorist group can see the writing on the wall. Expect an explosive response.

Israel is caught in the middle of these clashes with anti-Israeli sentiments boiling in Egypt and Syrian. Every indicator says that an even more radical Islamic group is likely to gain power in Damascus. Meanwhile the Sunni’s and Shi’ites continue killing each other. This situation is somewhat like the Methodist and Baptist shooting rockets at each other’s churches because they don’t like the other’s missions program.

While the Obama administration has kept Israel from bombing the Iranian nuclear operation, that issue is from settled. More conflict will come soon. The next blog will address these issues.

Like I said … expect a mess.  Stay tuned.

1 Comment

Filed under Egypt, Iran, Syria, Women's Rights