Writing in the Jerusalem Post this week, public relations expert Laura Kam argued that the ongoing controversy over Women of the Wall is particularly harmful to Israel because it’s seen as an issue of women’s rights. I agree that Israel’s current policy unacceptably violates Women of the Wall’s rights in some respects. But there’s another group of women whose rights the organization’s overseas advocates too often overlook: the thousands of women who visit the Western Wall every day not to “see and be seen,” as Women of the Wall chairwoman Anat Hoffman shockingly described her goal, but to pour out their hearts to God.
Because much of what the organization seeks to do at the Wall in no way disrupts other people’s worship, the existing ban on these activities is unjustified. A woman wearing a tallit or carrying a Torah, for instance, doesn’t impede anyone’s prayers: If you’re there to pray, your eyes should be on your prayer book, not on what other people are wearing or carrying. Even a full women’s prayer service complete with Torah reading wouldn’t necessarily be disruptive if it were quiet, as Orthodox worship often is: At many Orthodox services, you can’t even hear the Torah reading from more than a few feet away.