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