On a recent trip to Israel, Naomi Adler, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, spent time with Women of the Wall. She recounts her experience here:

I am still processing my experience at the Kotel today with Women of the Wall, Nashot HaKotel. Especially as I just read that the government of Israel just suspended the implementation of the Kotel agreement re: Egalitarian prayer space.

Anat Hoffman, Exec Director of the Israel Religious Action Center, asked me to write about my impressions, so here is a bit of my thoughts:

First, I have been part of Rosh Hodesh observance there a few times (my most memorable was in the snow, where i got hit with a snowball during the service but later on had to smile, for as we exited the plaza, I saw a snowperson wearing a WOW tallit!). So I expected the whistle blowing, the extra security checks and the female & male protestors. But this time, we were ushered into a space encircled by metal security barricades. From an intellectual perspective, I understood the concept of keeping us secure. I also appreciate those in the government and elsewhere who recognize the need AND right for WOW to be there.

What a shame that the reality of the barriers became another way to sideline our voices as far as possible away from the men’s section. Why not make this “second mechitza” for the PROTESTING women so as to recognize and allow US the space and time (only 1.5 hours) to really be present there to pray?

It felt like we were in a cage.

Second: My ideal, whenever I go to a service, is to be part of a ritual, rather than a show. All of the cameras, whether to document possible violations of the rules or to just commemorate the moment, are completely understandable. They are also an unfortunate consequence of our times.

That said, the cameras and simultaneous social media were a tough distraction.

Third: I have great admiration for everyone who came today. In the middle of it all, I made a concerted effort to look around and silently thank the women who came for the first time, conquering their fear of what could happen, as well as those who make it a habit to be there every month for whatever reason they ascribe to their actions. I also want to acknowledge the MEN who attended with us AND made a point of praying near us in the plaza rather than in the men’s section.

Finally: My heart goes out to the adolescent girl who wanted to be a part of WOW but could not handle the assaultive shouting and whistles. Her father looked on helplessly far away from us as she dissolved in tears. I so want to erase this memory from her mind, and fervently pray this experience will NOT push her away from the land I so proudly love!

Thanks for reading — I look forward to continuing in the dialogue as well as future ways for us to pray in peace, equality and dignity together.