For months, as the Women For the Wall fought for the right of women to pray at the Wall undisturbed, we have heard from many, even within the Orthodox community, that really W4W should just have ignored the Women Of the Wall. Or as one pulpit Rabbi put it, “The WOW were not proselytizing anyone, they were not trying to win converts, they were not trying to make a revolution.”
Oops. Actually, they were.
These rabbis, from Shlomo Riskin on down, are now left to contemplate their naivete about WOW. Since they ignored WOW founders Rivka Haut and Susan Aranoff, who wrote (many months ago) in the Times of Israel that the reason WOW must remain at the Kosel is because, in reference to religious women (esp. charedim), they will “change their worldview,” now they must deal with the reality of Anat Hoffman admitting that this poorly-hidden agenda was, in fact, their continuous goal. WOW’s leading cheerleader in the press, Judy Maltz of HaAretz, reported the following after Hoffman’s conference call with WOW supporters, in which she defended their recent decision to move (with a ridiculous collection of conditions, but that’s for another article) to Robinson’s Arch:
Among the factors that brought about the change of heart within the organization, she said, was the realization that changing the mindset of Orthodox Jews was not possible. “Women of the Wall is the right group for bringing about change in Israel but not the right group for bringing about change in the Orthodox world,” she said. “I’m not sure that a group which has members from all the different streams of Judaism is the right one for doing something like this.”
In other words, WOW’s mission statement, claiming that they only want “to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall,” was never more than a facade for WOW’s true mission, to “bring about change in the Orthodox world.” Having concluded that WOW is not “the right one for doing something like this,” Hoffman has decided to pack out for the greener pastures of Robinson’s Arch, where, of course, they will be able to wear prayer shawls, read from the Torah, and do whatever else they please.
Hoffman also went much further, conceding that a plaza equipped with a mechitzah, 100 Sifrei Torah, hundreds of prayer books and its own Rabbinic authority might, after all, be considered a traditionally Jewish religious space, and that those who use this space regularly have rights, as well:
Our Haredi sisters also have rights, and we saw last Rosh Chodesh that they really don’t want – maybe not all of them, but many of them – do not want to see a woman in a tallit and tefillin, and they also have rights. I think it’s absolutely fine that the state gives the Kotel rabbi absolute authority over the Haredi space.
This quite astounding achievement could not have been brought about without Women For the Wall. They basically saved the possibility of a place for traditional prayer at the Kotel for all of us (on Channel 2, Hoffman once contemplated an era where people would be shocked to learn that there had once been a mechitzah at the plaza)… and along the way, taught a few Rabbis what it means to trust a politician, like the former Meretz Jerusalem City Council member turned religious activist!