My Amazing Bat Mitzvah Experience

by Aliya Mayana Glatt 

Aliya had her bat mitzvah at the Kotel with Women of the Wall on October 14, 2015

The Kotel stands in its ancient glory as I step onto the tiny women’s side.  After greetings, we begin the Rosh SP 3 gens Heshvan Oct 2015Chodesh service. The men on the other, roomier side of the Mechitza have already started their loud praying.  I look back and see my loving brother and grandfather on the Kotel Plaza, wave to them, and turn back to my Siddur. I smile as I realize the beauty of being surrounded by women who are willing to fight for their right to read from Torah at this Holy place.

I was blessed to have this trip of a lifetime to the Holy Land of Israel, and to be able to visit David’s City of Jerusalem. We built our trip around Women of the Wall’s monthly Rosh Chodesh service, which offered me the opportunity for a Bat Mitzvah at the Kotel. 

The absence of a Torah was extremely significant. It was amazing to read a Torah portion at the Western Wall, but it would have been more amazing to read it from a real Torah.  Actually, Women of the Wall could have tried to smuggle in a small Torah, like they have attempted many times before. However, Palestinian violence was sweeping the country that day, and the organization decided that the police had more important things to do.

A girl from Brazil became a Bat Mitzvah with me on that remarkable Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, proving that the Kotel’s holiness is still vibrant, even on the other side of the world. The service was wonderful, because I loved reading a Torah portion, learning new melodies, and just being at the holy Kotel. I was proud to be a part of three generations of strong women — my grandmother, my mother, and I. Along with immediate family, it was lovely to have a good family friend with us, accompanied by her mother and adorable baby. She even received a special blessing for herself and her newborn. My great-aunt was kindly present as well, and even had a spontaneous Aliyah, bringing a sense of family and love.

Reading a Torah portion at the Western Wall was only part of the experience. Practicing my three Aliyot, starting in early June, definitely emphasized my exposure and connection to Women of the Wall and this ancient site. Interestingly, by ridiculous standards, women aren’t actually forbidden from reading Torah at the Kotel, but they are unable to have access to Torahs, not being able to go onto the men’s side to get one of the two polished, well-loved Torah arks. This makes me very angry! Not only do women have a much smaller section of the Mechitza, we also are not allowed even one of the many, many Torahs that the men have on their large 2/3!

During the splendid service, a man on the other side started to shout at us for silence, and when we ignored him and kept on singing, a young Yeshiva boy told him, “Not today. Today is a day for peace and unity among all Jews.” Then he gathered his fellows together and started singing Am Yisrael Chai, and we, the women, joined in. It was a beautiful moment of peace.

Unfortunately, rare conditions such as these do not last forever, though that wish burns in one’s heart with a wistful throb. The Women of the Wall are trying bravely to change this unequal situation in a peaceful way, their attitude inspiring me, along with generations, and making the world a better place.

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