The day I Became a Woman (of the Wall)

10 October 2013

By Rachel Cohen Yeshurun, October 2013

I’ve been living in the Jerusalem area for over 20 years. I grew up Orthodox and, being so busy with studies, work, and children, I never thought much about religion and my part in it.

And then I chanced upon a Facebook post about Anat Hoffman’s arrest for carrying a Torah at the Kotel. When I read that I felt terribly ashamed; ashamed of my country but mostly ashamed of myself for not knowing about this group before, for not being with these people all these years, for ignoring a cause so blindingly right and just. There and then, I swore to myself that I would join these women for the next Rosh Hodesh service.

And so I did. At the service there was a policeman who kept telling us to “lower the volume”. Did I have to listen to him? I stopped singing every time he said that. I didn’t want to get arrested for singing too loudly.

There was shouting coming from the left. I was so scared I didn’t dare look around. Next to me there was a woman who must be a regular; her tallit was wrapped comfortably around her and from time to time she told the policeman in charge something which made him back off for a few minutes. I started to concentrate on the tefilah. And it was beautiful.

Hallel over, we sang our way to Robinson’s arch for the Torah service. By this time I had a bit of a stomach ache so I found a rock to sit on and tried to calm down. You obviously need to be made of strong stuff to be a Woman of the Wall! Then I heard someone asking if anyone wanted to read from the Torah. I volunteered to read the 2nd aliyah. My stomachache miraculously gone, I read the three psukim. Only after, I started to notice things: The guy with the “This is a Jerusalem Feminist” t-shirt, the woman with a baby snuggled in a carrier, the blue sky and warm sun. I can do this again, I thought to myself and vowed, G-d willing, to come back next Rosh Hodesh.

Postscript: I came back the next month, and the next, and the next. I joined the Women of the Wall board soon after. It’s been a privilege and a learning experience – especially learning what the inside of the Jerusalem old city police stations are like (dull!) and most recently, the art of negotiation and leadership (fascinating!).

Rachel Yeshurun is a software developer in Jerusalem and is on the board of directors of Women of the Wall.


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