A new Jewish month came into being on Tuesday. Sivan, technically the third month of the Jewish year (or the ninth, depending on how you count the months), is the month in which we celebrate the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai.
Because Tuesday was rosh chodesh, it meant that the group known as the Women of the Wall were bound to turn up at the Western Wall sometime that morning to recite their morning prayers just the way men do, and wearing tallitot and perhaps even t’fillin while doing so.
They were bound to turn up because they always turn up on a rosh chodesh, on the first day of a new Jewish month. It is what the Women of the Wall do. Everyone knows it and everyone expects it. Some even expect that a few charedi on the other side of the gender barrier known as a mechitzah will toss chairs at some of the women who dared don such men-only ritual wear.
What no one should have expected is that the police would harass the women. Three were stopped and questioned by uniformed officers. Their names and national identification numbers were taken down, and the women were told they would be called in to answer for their crime.
Yes, crime, for that is what it is.
Never mind that neither a tallit nor t’fillin are deemed men-only by halachah (although this is not the forum to explore that issue). What is most appalling, in addition to the behavior of the chair-throwing charedi, is this: Several years ago, the Knesset passed a law that prohibits a woman from wearing either at holy sites. It is a crime in the Jewish State for a Jewish woman to wear a ritual object even rabbis of the Talmud said she is permitted to wear. It is a crime for a woman to wear a tallit at the Western Wall.
We understand that the Wall is for everyone and, therefore, must be as accessible to the most religious and the no interest in being religious. That means that certain areas of the Wall do have to be reserved for those who oppose mixed seating at religious services. Each group has an equal right to access and that access is denied when religious senstivities are ignored.
That does not give anyone the right to endanger people’s lives by tossing chairs at them. Those are the people the police should be detaining.