Israeli Cabinet Bows To Ultra-Orthodox Demands, Nixing Western Wall Mixed Gender Plan

Women and men pray together at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, 1910. George Eastman House/Getty Images

Women and men pray together at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, 1910. George Eastman House/Getty Images

Israel's government shocked American Jews on Sunday, nixing a breakthrough plan approved last year to allow mixed-gender religious services at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews have managed Israel's holy Jewish sites since 1967, with the strictest rules that divide the area for prayer at the Western Wall, according to gender. Women must pray in complete silence, with no group prayer, singing or reading of the Torah scrolls, as women do. 

In 1988 'Women of the Wall' began monthly prayer services at the Kotel. According to the organization's website, Women of the Wall spent over 10 years, between 1989 and 2003, "in the first Supreme Court struggle for women's equal rights at the Western Wall. Various judicial agreements and decisions were rendered over the years, culminating in a January 2016 plan for a pluralistic prayer section of the Western Wall. Unfortunately, immediately after the plan was voted upon and passed by the Knesset, the ultra-Orthodox parties demonstrated against it and demanded that the agreement be rescinded.

Police escort Anat Hoffman holding a Torah scroll from the Western Wall, on July 12

Police escort Anat Hoffman holding a Torah scroll from the Western Wall, on July 12

According to the Washington Post:

Sunday’s decision to cancel the new Western Wall arrangement has drawn denunciations from liberal Jews in Israel and the United States. It also appeared to threaten Netanyahu’s fragile coalition, with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman — head of a faction that represents secular Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union — vowing to fight back.  

“It actually causes terrible harm to Jewish unity and to the alliance between the State of Israel and Diaspora Jewry,” Israeli media quoted him as saying. 

“It’s a terrible day for women in Israel when the prime minister sacrifices their rights while kowtowing to a handful of religious extremists, who want to enforce their religious customs while intentionally violating the rights of the majority of the Jewish world,” said Anat Hoffman, chair of Women of the Wall.  

Bill Cosby Set To Educate Young Men About Charges Of Rape For A Simple Touch

Just read these words. Does Cosby sound like he is a member of the alt-right? Cosby is launching a full-frontal, Trump-like assault on women, suggesting that a brush of the shoulder with a woman could get you on trial for rape. This is truly disgusting.

Looking marvelously better than during his trial, disgraced comedian Bill Cosby is hitting the road, playing the role of victim.

“Mr. Cosby wants to get back to work,” Andrew Wyatt, a spokesperson for Cosby, told a local Fox affiliate in Alabama on Thursday. “We are now planning town halls.... We’re going to talk to young people, because this is bigger than Bill Cosby. This issue can affect any young person, especially young athletes of today. And they need to know what they're facing when they’re hanging out and partying, when they’re doing certan things that they should be doing. And it also affects married men.”

Ebonee Benson, another Cosby spokesperson, added, “Laws are changing. The statute of limitations for victims of sexual assault are being extended. So this is why people need to be educated on [how] a brush against a shoulder, anything at this point can be considered sexual assault, and it’s a good thing to be educated about the laws.” via Newsweek

 

Renee Rabinowitz Wins Case Over Ultra-Orthodox Demand That She Be Moved On El Al

Renee Rabinowitz was asked to switch seats on an El Al flight from Newark to Tel Aviv in 2015 because a strictly Orthodox male passenger did not want to sit next to her. CreditUriel Sinai for The New York Times

Renee Rabinowitz was asked to switch seats on an El Al flight from Newark to Tel Aviv in 2015 because a strictly Orthodox male passenger did not want to sit next to her. CreditUriel Sinai for The New York Times

Women's rights in Israel have seen a steady erosion in recent decades, although there is no high-pitched debate around a liberal abortion policy in the country. In fact, about 97% of women who seek state financing for abortion are approved. Israel approves abortions as late as 40 weeks of pregnancy.

The most obvious erosion of women's rights in Israel centers around issues of religion and gender in public spaces. Now 83-year-old Renee Rabinowitz has won a critical court ruling, suing the strictly Orthodox male passenger who demanded that she be moved from her El Al aisle business-class seat when he boarded Flight 028 bound for Tel Aviv from Newark in December 2015. Strictly Orthodox Jewish men believe they are contaminated and tempted in the close proximity of women who are not their wives. 

Ms. Rabinowitz, who lived through traumatic days of the Nazis in Europe, moved reluctantly. But she landed in Israel determined to take action. This week a Jerusalem court ruled that gender segregation and the movement of passengers to accommodate gender discrimination was illegal on El Al. 

“This is a common story; it happens to many,” Anat Hoffman, the director of Israel Religious Action Center who represented Ms. Rabinowitz, said of the pressure on women to change seats. Ms. Hoffman called the verdict “a breath of fresh air” and compared Ms. Rabinowitz to the Israeli actress who starred in the movie “Wonder Woman.” “Like Gal Gadot, Renee has superpowers,” she said.

WSJ's Carol Lee Joins NBC News As National Political Reporter

President Barack Obama talks with Carol Lee of The Wall Street Journal at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner in 2016. Lee previously served as president of the WHCA. | AP Photo

President Barack Obama talks with Carol Lee of The Wall Street Journal at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner in 2016. Lee previously served as president of the WHCA. | AP Photo

Current White House correspondent for The Wall Street Journal Carol Lee is joining NBC News as a national political reporter. Lee will appear across all NBC platforms including MSNBC, begging in July. 

Lee is currently president of the White House Correspondents' Association and a board member since 2010. She joined WSJ in 2011, after covering the White House for Politico, joining with President Obama's presidential transition in Chicago in 2008. Previously, Lee covered politics in Florida for three years.

The frequent cable news commentator is a graduate of New York University's school of journalism and lives in Washington DC with her son, Hudson.