Shnat Netzer and the Women of the Wall 25th Anniversary

by Lotan on 11/07/2013


Shalom!  My name is Sammi Donchin and I am one of the Shnaties (Shnat Netzer Gap Year) living on Kibbutz Lotan. On Monday, I had the opportunity to go to the Women of the Wall 25th anniversary alongside hundreds of men and women supporters. I have been to the Kotel many times, but I had never seen a Women of the Wall service before, so I really had no idea what to expect, and furthermore, how to react.

When we arrived at the Kotel, we made our way to our side of the fence, and the men made their way to the other side. On the Women’s side, everyone was singing “Oseh Shalom” and had their arms wrapped around each other. While we were singing, a loud voice came over a speaker. This was the voice of a Chasidic Rabbi trying to drown out our voices. I looked over to the loud speaker and made eye contact with two orthodox men. Both men looked at me and used their hands to make the shape of a gun and pretended to shoot me. One of them slid his finger across his neck and said something in Hebrew, but I couldn’t hear, and probably don’t want to know. As the service continued, I bumped into the Associate Director of NFTY, (My home youth movement). During the torah service, she asked if I would like to join the other 6 NFTYites in doing an aliyah. Well how could I pass up that opportunity?! After the torah service, all of the women took off their talitot and raised them in the air so that every women and girl was covered as one of the rabbis said a blessing. Unfortunately I was unable to translate, but I felt so safe with all of the women around me. After the torah service, we sang the Shema. A man in the back of the men’s section stood on a chair and started screaming at us, trying to distract us. I looked around, and made eye contact with the woman on my right, who seemed to be in her mid seventies. She looked at me, then she looked at the screaming man, flipped him off, laughed, and kept praying. At that moment, I realized that these women weren’t praying at The Wall. They weren’t idolizing bricks and stones – they were praying for each other. They were praying that some day, we will all be able to pray in our own way, without having to be silenced just because they are women. My friend Nic brought up that if God is all knowing and all hearing, then it really doesn’t matter how loudly you pray, because God will hear you. The men on the loud speakers were using prayer as a weapon, not as a holy work.


After being threatened by a Chasidic man, after doing an aliyah at the Kotel, and after figuring out that prayer can be for the love and strength of each other, I feel very confident for the future.


Photo credit: Yosef Abramowitz

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Donchin November 7, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Beautifully stated! Wonderful experience! Thanks so much to Kibbutz Loton, to Netzer, who not only give the Shnaties a home but also formidable experiences that shape their future. Am Yisrael Chai!


Kathy Felten November 7, 2013 at 8:48 pm

Aloha Sammi…..thank you so much for sharing.. you must be having an awesome experience. We all live in our little worlds and because of you sharing I am able to see life outside… I believe as you that love and strength for each other will make this world a better place for all including women. Take care and keep sharing.. xooxoxoxoxox


Julia November 8, 2013 at 12:33 am

Sammi … So proud of you and so thrilled that you are having this amazing experience. Thank you for sharing this with us. <3


linda Bkumenthal November 8, 2013 at 1:16 am

You wrote so beautifully about an incredible experience. Keep up the good work and keep sharing it/ By the way, the picture of you looks so much like your mom I couldn’t believe it.

We love you.


linda Bkumenthal November 8, 2013 at 1:21 am

you wrote so beautifully about an incredible experience Keep up the good work and keep sharing it with all of us. By the way you really looked alot like your mom in that picture


Shari M November 8, 2013 at 1:53 am

Oh Sammi ~ that is so beautifully written. Your experience is life changing…for you and also for those with you who looked to you and saw strength & beauty & resolve. My heart beats everyday with pride & love for what you & those with you are accomplishing.


Vered Harris November 8, 2013 at 4:25 am

What a great story & perspective. This is a wonderful tribute to the power of being there, seeing it, and doing it for yourself. I’m so proud to know you and watch you from afar.


Debbie Muzik November 8, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Wow, Sammi! No words for such an incredible article. You are amazing. May your experience just continue to get better and better! Love all the pictures and updates.

Aunt Debbie


Gay Hellman November 8, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Wow what an awesome experience to have…and thank you so much for sharing it with all of us. The pictures were fantastic also but your writing about your personal experience really made me feel like I was there and sharing it with you. Can’t wait to read and see more of what you are doing in Israel this year.


Jo H November 8, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Dear Susan,

Yes, we read the on-line TBI bulletin from up here in VT! You have written a very insightful description of what must have been a very thrilling moment…one which you will probably always remember. it is so nice to see that the lovable kid we knew when we lived in OKC has turned into such a lovely and thoughtful young woman. Keep thinking and feeling and expressing it so adroitly!


Helene Harpman November 8, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Sammi dear,
What a tribute you are to your family and your community. In Yiddish, we are all “schepping naachas” from your beautifully written article. I felt like I was there and I wish I could have jammed the man’s loucf speaker. A little more media expertise and we can do that!
Much love and pride from all of us,
Helene Harpman


Henry Katz November 8, 2013 at 8:46 pm

What a great experience for a young lady with such deep Oklhoma Roots.
And well written!
Sammi You look like a Blumenthal.


Margaret Donchin November 8, 2013 at 11:01 pm

Dear Sammi,

I received your wonderful communication and I was so happy and thrilled to get it! The pictures were great, I really felt like I was part of this experience. I love you very much! Grandma


Jan Luskey November 8, 2013 at 11:06 pm

Thanks for sharing! We can live vicariously through you! Proud of you!


Marsha Karchmer November 8, 2013 at 11:29 pm

Sammi,as I said before you left,we’re proud of you for making this trip. You are proving that beyond any expection. Your writing is outstanding and pictures let us be there with you. Keep it up. As your grandmother said, you really do look just like your mother, but you are definitely YOU.

Marsha Karchmer


Steve Donchin November 9, 2013 at 12:22 am

Sammi-thanks for sharing this tremendous experience with everyone. You continue to be a leader of our people and all of us at home are so proud of you.



Fran Cohen November 9, 2013 at 3:28 am

So beautifully said, Sammi! I’m proud that one of our own NFTY-TOR-ites was a part of history. I’m sure this is an experience you will never forget!


janet price December 8, 2013 at 3:54 am


Thanks for sharing a fabulous, life-changing experience with us in such a beautiful way….


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