Freedoms that Clash (Session V)

Freedoms that Clash (Session V)

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We have explored how our relationship to other Jews is based on more than the Torah and religion.

We are a People, עם (Am), and as such acknowledge there may be higher expectations for us to behave differently towards our People and its traditions. We also expect our People to behave differently towards us and the way in which we play out our connection to our traditions.

Now we are looking at the principle of Freedom, and how it can chime with Peoplehood as well as how it can come into tension with Peoplehood.

We are going to look at a subject that has reached the headlines frequently of late – the right of women to pray at the Western Wall in a way that is different from Ultra-Orthodox tradition of the past few hundred years.

First, let’s remind ourselves of the Western Wall itself, and the way the Jewish People were not always free to make their own choices:

Then came the Six Day War…

So before we go further, let’s celebrate!

After two thousand years, we are finally in the position where we can argue about what we want to do with the Kotel! For generations upon generations, we never had a choice. We never had a choice because we were helpless, and the Kotel was governed by others. Now it is for the Jewish People to determine the fate of our own sacred space. And since the Jewish People is alive and developing and growing, so it’s inevitable that the status quo will be continually questioned…

Sometimes the very right to have an argument with consequences should be celebrated!


Now let’s focus in on the Kotel. This is the Hebrew word for the Western Wall. (The Western Wall was once called the Wailing Wall, because over the centuries Jews were seen to weep at the wall, mourning the loss of the Temple. Since 1967 the “Wailing” was gradually replaced with “Western”)

This is a useful short video, if you can get past the strangely inappropriate music(!). It shows clearly the development of what was known as the Wailing Wall to the Western Wall, place of Israel’s greatest victory…

Now we’re going to try an experiment. We’re first going to look at a promotional video made by the Women of the Wall – an organization fighting to allow women to pray freely at the Western Wall.
Then we’re going to look at a series of other viewpoints of this conflict, viewpoints that see Freedom in very different ways. Our intention is not to force you to change your minds – our intention is to highlight how the tension and harmony between Am and Chofshi, between People and Freedom, is far more complicated than it might first appear…



How does this leave you feeling?

What kind of music would you play, that might represent your feelings about this? What volume?
What freedom would you say is being restricted?


There is a great deal of press about what is going on at the Kotel right now (June 2013), and the situation is dynamic. Rather than list some links that will be out of date in a few days time, we encourage you to go googling on this topic, if it interests you!

But now, let’s play “Yes, but…”

harif on white


What principle is at stake?

Jews should be allowed to pray wherever they want, especially in Israel, and especially at Judaism’s most holy place.

Yes but…

Do you agree? Ready to be challenged? Click here…


What principle is at stake?

People should be given the freedom to worship the way that they choose. That’s what a liberal democracy is all about.

Yes but…

Do you agree? Ready to be challenged? Click here...


What principle is at stake?

I am a Jewish liberal. This means that I am in favor of religious pluralism in Israel, and I am in favor of fair treatment of Palestinians. My support of the Women of the Wall is an extension of my religious and political identity.

Yes but…

Ready to be challenged? Click here…


What does all this mean?

Does it make you want to know more? Or less?

If you don’t want to know any more about this fascinating place, then we’ve failed. But if you are now provoked into finding out more, learning more, and clarifying your own stance on these issues, then we’re doing okay…

You are welcome to start here…


Session VI – What do we mean by “Our Land”?


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