Matters of Identity: The Wall, Women and a Cause for Wailing

Posted on Thu, Feb 14, 2013 @ 11:01 PM


wailing wall

For some time now challenges have been directed at the ultra-Orthodox way of life especially when it comes to the role of women.

Last Monday's arrest of 10 members of Women of the Wall, including two female American rabbis, was not the first time the group has met opposition at the Western or Wailing Wall. They have been protesting their exclusion from worshipping there in the traditional prayer shawl for 24 years.

Back in 1989, they were attacked by ultra-Orthodox men wielding metal chairs. The then Director General of the Ministry of Religious Affairs said nothing could be done to help the women hold prayer servicesthe prohibition against them doing so, he said, "is tradition in Israel, and this tradition is law and can't be changed."

This time, the group of about 200 were supported by Israeli paratrooper veterans from the 67 War. The Jewish Agency's Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet Jewish dissident, is trying to resolve the conflict at P.M. Netanyahu's request. He admits it will not be easy"we Jews chose to be not-easy people, and to live in a not-easy place, and to do not-easy religion.”

This is one more example of clashes over matters of identity with religious and ideological roots. The Western Wall has long been the center of such struggles. In the past, it was the entire Jewish community in Palestine that wanted access and only slowly over the years did that come about, most notably as a result of the '67 War. Now that the State of Israel has possession, contention over the Wall comes from a group within its own tradition.

Tags: jerusalem, 1967 Six Day War, identity, ultra-orthodox, peace, israel, western wall

Critical Junctures in the Middle East Conflict

Posted on Thu, Jun 07, 2007 @ 03:45 PM
New books detail historic outcomes in the Israeli-Palestinian impasse


1967 Arab-Israeli War: preparing to capture Old City

1967 Arab-Israeli War: preparing to capture Old City

From both Arab and Israeli perspectives, 1967 became the defining date in the more than century old Middle East conflict. More so even than the 1947-49 Palestinian exodus, categorized recently by Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe, as “ethnic cleansing” and known by the Palestinians more opaquely as al-Nakba (“the catastrophe”). In that period, between 750,000 and 800,000 Palestinians either fearfully fled their homes (temporarily they thought) or were driven out by Israeli forces. Since then precious few have been able to return. 

But what happened during the June 1967 Six Day War created a problematic new reality for Israel and the remaining Palestinians that only extended the seething and suffering.

While the Israelis’ unforeseen capture of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights gave them 30% more territory, it created infinitely more potential for conflict with its additional one million Arab residents.

At the time, according to Israel’s future state president, Chaim Herzog, the Israeli cabinet voted to return the Sinai and the Golan to Egypt and Syria (see Heroes of Israel, 1989). The offer was to be conveyed by the United States, but apparently never reached the two Arab states. 

Subsequent debate within Israeli circles about what to do with the captured West Bank found Israel’s veteran former prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, recommending its return. He saw no possibility of maintaining a demographic edge by incorporating so many Palestinians into Israel.

The problem of absorbing the West Bank in the event of a crisis with Jordan had occupied Israeli strategists months before the war. Their evaluation that it would be unwise and lead to many difficulties for Israel, domestically and internationally, is confirmed by Israeli journalist and historian, Tom Segev, in his just published book, 1967.

Sadly, the rest is painful history.

David Hulme

Tags: 1967 Six Day War, west bank, Middle East Conflict, Palestinian Exodus