Year Course Connecting with Women of the Wall

By Year Course in Israel

by Jereme Weiner, Year Course 19-20

As a lifelong Judaean – six summers at Camp Judaea, Hadracha at Camp Tel Yehudah, and participating in Machon in Israel last summer – I feel like I have spent years preparing to having a truly meaningful Year Course experience, ready to connect what I learned at camp with life in Israel.

During my Hadracha summer at Tel Yehudah in 2017, we discussed all kinds of topics during our weekly Shabbat Israel Update. One week, I was frustrated to learn during a talk on gender issues at the Western Wall that women had significantly less rights to prayer at the Kotel and were not able to read from the Torah, among other restrictions. What could I do to get involved? How could I make my voice heard, too?

Last week, on Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan (the first day of the new month), I joined seven other Year Coursers and our madricha, Sarah, for monthly prayers at the Kotel with Women of the Wall (WoW), a group whose mission is to “attain social and legal recognition of the right of  women to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah, collectively and aloud, at the Western Wall.” We joined the group at 7am, ready to show our support, and were amazed by the amount of people who had come to protest both for and against women’s rights at the Kotel. While WoW tried for more than half an hour to bring three small Torahs into the Western Wall plaza, security guards pushed us back and didn’t allow us in, while a crowd had gathered telling us to shut up and go home. It was a disheartening and frustrating experience to feel like my Judaism wasn’t being respected, and that fellow Jews were aggressively pushing us away from praying at the holiest site in Judaism.

After leaving, I thought back to that Israel Update during Hadracha – it felt like my Young Judaea experience had drawn a straight line from education to experience, not only exposing me to important topics in Jewish life and Israel while at camp, but bringing them to life while I live in Israel for the year. On Year Course, my views on Judaism and Zionism are constantly tested, questioned, and evolving. Seeing the issues we discussed at camp first-hand has been an experience I am so thankful for, and I can’t wait to see where my Year Course journey takes me.

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