A Little Victory
Thursday, June 21, 2012 – Rosh Hodesh Tamuz
This past week, I experienced my first Rosh Hodesh service with Women of the Wall. I woke up early, excited to arrive at the Kotel for the 7AM service. Tallit in hand, I stood in the back of the women's section just about ready to pray, not knowing what was in store. After being handed a siddur, I placed myself in the middle of the cluster, surrounding myself with the women of the wall. Similar to the stones of the Western Wall, separated enough to fit a prayer into but united enough to withstand time, the Women of the Wall are an enduring group. While each woman came from a different background, we all joined together for a common purpose: freedom of religious expression.
I had heard about recent detainments for wearing a tallit, a prayer shawl, and while I was a bit apprehensive, I was ready to stand up for what I believed in. I unfolded my tallit, made the blessing, and placed it over my shoulders as always. I flipped to the right page and began praying. As we chanted and sang together, our voices became one, and I was filled with the immense strength and courage that flowed through our group. We stood as one, praying aloud at the Kotel. WOW is right! Although there was an Israeli officer videoing our actions, I closed my eyes and did my best to focus on my prayers. I was proud to be standing there with those women, where we belong!
After the service, we made our way through the exit singing "Ozi V'zimrat Yah". The words are:
This powerful phrase is defined as "My Strength (balanced) with the Song of God will be my salvation (Palm 118:14 & Exodus 15:2)" (Translation from Rabbi Shefa Gold). Let me say that there was definitely a lot of strength within each of us that morning. As we made our way through the security gate, heading towards Robinson's Arch for the Torah service, some guards approached one member of our group. She was stopped and detained because she was wearing a black and white tallit. In Jerusalem, it is minhag hamakom (custom of the place), an accepted practice in the community, for this tallit to be solely worn by men. Seeing this happen was both scary and heart-breaking all at the same time. It made me so angry to see . Even more, we had already exited the Kotel area. There was also a male supporter in our group that got detained for standing up for our group.
While I am still enraged from personally witnessing what has happened, Women of the Wall Chair Anat Hoffman explained to us how we had come across a little victory. Although a woman wearing the black and white tallit was not minhag hamakom, the detainment meant that all the rest of our colored tallitot were acceptable. Pointing to her colored tallit, Anat exclaims, "This is a little victory. All this is kosher!"
If asked if I would do it again,...there is no doubt! Why not? Any little stride means a step forward. As Anat Hoffman put it, we had made “A Little Victory”.
Her words give me reason to believe that in time, our voices and our song will truly make a difference!