Rosh Chodesh Tammuz: I Didn't Show Up, And I Regret It
Sun, 06/09/2013
Special To The Jewish Week

Maybe I could oversleep. Does public transportation even run at 6 a.m.? Or maybe I could convince my friend that she didn’t want to go and use the excuse that I couldn’t go alone. Am I too old to blame my mom for not letting me go? All valid (kind of) reasons why I could theoretically miss this morning’s Rosh Chodesh Tammuz prayers with Women of the Wall.

Call me a victim of the media, but all the buildup and hoopla surrounding this month's Rosh Hodesh was kind of getting to me. Emails saying, "Urgent message for Sunday, Rosh Chodesh Tammuz prayers at the Kotel: The police have asked that none of us go to the Kotel on our own that morning, since they can ensure our safety only in a group...” are just slightly intimidating. Not to mention, it's just so early.

I attended my first Women of the Wall service last month, an intimate gathering of supporters and thousands of haredi protestors. Getting bussed away from the Kotel as deeply impassioned and violent haredi men threw rocks is an experience I certainly was not expecting and one I debated telling my mom about. If she knew that, she definitely wouldn't let me go today!

Nonetheless I believe in what Women of the Wall is doing, and what good are beliefs if you don't make them known? Through OTZMA, I've spent the last ten months volunteering my time and learning how to be a leader in my community. OTZMA gave me the opportunity to be in Israel and I should be taking full advantage of that. Leaders don't stay in bed when the going gets tough. After all, my time in Israel is winding down and I don't know when I'll be back. And therein lay my biggest dilemma.

Lurking in the back of mind during all of this and what I think was the biggest reason why I was hesitant to attend this morning's prayers; I'm an American who is leaving Israel in 21 days. Where does my opinion lie in all of this? Does it even deserve a place in Israeli society? I've heard people argue that Women of the Wall is nothing but female expatriates looking to stir the pot of social unrest in Israel and I must say, it caused me to step back for a moment. I'm not even a permanent ex pat; my time in Israel is dwindling. Do I really want to scream 'Inequality!' and then walk away? This is what I spent all day Saturday contemplating, and as the perfect storm of excuses to not attend this morning's prayers began to intensify, I found myself lying in bed reading news updates from the Kotel. Not one of my proudest moments, but one to be acknowledged.

I fault no one except my overactive imagination and nervousness for not attending. And maybe the media; news reports might have scared me slightly as well. In the end, I was nervous something extreme would happen, but I was also really bothered by that nagging part of me that believed I didn't belong. Then I woke up, literally and figuratively, and realized that while I was in bed, other people were out there fighting for my right to pray freely in Israel.

My entire Jewish education presented Israel as a nation that existed for all Jews: a Jewish state to exist as a stark contrast to the places in the world where Jews were unwanted, unwelcome and unsafe. Here I was, shying away from my ability to influence the state that is supposed to be my home. Not all Jews are blessed with the good fortune of being born within the boundaries of the state of Israel, but does that mean our opinions and beliefs are unwelcome? I don't think so.

For those of us who wish to be connected to the Jewish state, we deserve the right to fight for our Jewish state. Would my opinion only be justified if I were to make aliyah tomorrow, which could happen (again, don't tell my mom). The beauty of Israel is the simple fact of its existence as a Jewish state for Jews of any background, color or religious leaning.

I want to be proud of Israel and of the country it has become. When I go home, it will feel like I'm leaving behind a part of myself that forever belongs here. When I come back, I want to feel that I'm in an Israel that respects my beliefs and rights as a woman and a Jew. I don't think this is asking for a lot. If I've gained anything on OTZMA besides a deeper connection to Israel, it would be a belief in myself and the desire to make myself heard.

So, at the end of the day if I could rewind time and go back to 5:30 this morning I would have sprung out of bed, confident and determined to make a place for myself among the discontented of this country. Unfortunately, despite the great miracles that have occurred in this place, I don't think that is going to happen. The best I can do now is to write about how I'm feeling and share what I believe. I don't know when I'll be coming back to Israel next but I when I do, you'll find me at the Kotel.

Rachel Frank is currently living in Jerusalem as a participant on OTZMA, and interning for both Kids4Peace and OTZMA. She has also spent time this year living and volunteering in Karmiel and Ofakim. She graduated from American University in Washington D.C. with a B.A. in Sociology and International Relations in May 2012.
 

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You are a very brave and courageous person. Remember, bravery is when you do something you are afraid to do. You've been to the Wall, you've experienced these threats, and now you've published this editorial. You are a good and brave person, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise, especially yourself.

The Torah commands Jews to wear fringes on the corners of their garments. It does not command men; it commands Jews. Stand up for what you believe in; you and your friends are the Jewish Rosa Parks. You are not good, you are great Jews. You pray with bravery, and we respect you for that. Good for you! We all know it's a reprehensible sin to attack anyone at prayer, and we know that it's impossible to drown out the voice of prayer, because even silent prayers can be heard. Do not quit, and you will not lose.

"other people were out there fighting for my right to pray freely in Israel." The issue is not about your right to pray freely in Israel. You alaready have that right. You even have the right to pray as you wish at the Kotel with a few simple guidelines that can exist in any holy place in the world. The issue is gathering as a group at the Kotel in a manner that offends a large percent of the population that comes to the kotel on a regular basis, and not just once a month. Personally, I don't have an objection to the manner that this group want to pray at the Kotel- but I also understand that it is very offensive to many people and a compromise should be worked out- as has been worked out already by Natan Sharansky. So come back to Israel, and come to pray at the Kotel because you want to pray and not to protest for some freedom that actually already exists.

Hillel says, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?" Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14
Lots of people make mistakes, but how many of them promptly, publicly and eloquently admit them? Rachel, as one of the organizers of the Women of the Wall prayer service, I thank you for your support and look forward to having you join us in prayer and song another time.

Israel exists so that all Jews should follow the Torah, not for some Jews to thumb their noses.

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