by Raya Even-David
Translated with permission by Emily Shapiro Katz
My name is Raya Even-David and I have prayed with Women of the Wall regularly for the past year. In recent months, I have been invited to lead Hallel which I consider a great honor since Women of the Wall includes women of all denominations and I, as a Reform woman, feel very good that I am given the opportunity to lead such a diverse group of women. On Rosh Hodesh Nissan, I was the leader for Hallel and I confronted anunpleasant situation. The police officer who was supposed to be protecting us (both from the men shouting and cursing from the men’s section and the angry women threatening us from the women’s section) directed his energy instead towards silencing us, and especially me. I ignored his requests to lower my voice even though every time he came close to me, my heart raced faster and my attention was distracted from prayer. I don’t believe that women do not have the right to pray out loud. At the Kotel, I am already compromising by not wearing my tallit properly (I wear it like a scarf after the blessing), by not praying in a mixed egalitarian minyan as I am used to, and not reading from the Torah like the men do at the Wall. After the police officer’s third interruption, the other women formed a protective block around me so that I was no longer in front of the police officer but surrounded by the supportive women until I finished. After Hallel, we began moving to Robinson’s Arch to read Torah, and some of the women told me that they feared that the policeman was going to arrest me as soon as we left the women’s section. I panicked and did what they told me to do and walked quickly to the egalitarian Wall. I do not understand why it is against the law to pray out loud at the Kotel, or if it is in fact against the law, or why the policeman picked me and not the men screaming in loud voices far more provocative and loud than me. I prayed from the heart, with eyes closed, not in anger, not to hurt anyone, God forbid – only to greet the arrival of Nissan with women and friends who believe as I do in our right to pray as an organized group at the Western Wall. With God’s help, the State of Israel will soon grant freedom of religion – quickly in our time. The Passover holiday is coming soon and I want to escape from the slavery of silencing women and pushing them to the margins of society, and reach the true freedom of gender equality and cooperation between the streams of Judaism.
Chag Sameach! Raya Even-David