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Levi Eshkol against the Mehitzah at the Kotel

For anyone interested in the history of the disagreements regarding the status of the Kotel, below are two very interesting articles. The first is an interview from the August 7, 1967 edition of Davar with the then Minister of Religion Zerach Warhaftig. After reading this article it is possible to see that the tension surrounding the status of the Kotel and the separation of the sexes there started almost immediately after the 1967 war. The two parts of the article can be found here and here. One very interesting thing the article includes is the report of then PM Levi Eshkol comparing the mehitzah at the Kotel to a pen used for animals.

Eshkolcage

After a little searching, I found a longer description of Eshkol’s comments in the July 31, 1967 edition of Maariv that I have also translated.

Eshkolkotel

The Wester Wall and the holy places: The Prime Minister said clear things against the mehitzah and the pens near the Wester Wall. “I heard from religious people, I don’t want to do bad and mention their names, that there is no need for them. This wasn’t [in the past], it is not essential, it’s not a synagogue. It seems to me that there is some amount of insult in this. A number of women turned to me with complaints: ‘Why are they putting up a mehitzah and fences?’ In the end this is under the canopy of heaven. I have seen in the Jewish world synagogues, and not Reform ones, that are built with walls and ceilings, and men and women sit together and nothing bad happens, God forbid, to either the women or the men. Why should their place be diminished in relation to the Wall?” (The last sentence seems to be a veiled reference to the claim of the daughters of Zelofhad in Numbers 27:4.)

See this video that was made soon after the Six-Day War for pictures of the Kotel pre-mehitzah. This article contains the following interesting information:

One of the first major incidents occurred in the middle of 1968 when the Global Reform Movement of Progressive Judaism, based in the USA, requested to conduct a prayer celebration with a mixed crowd of men and women, with no fence separating them (Maariv Newspaper, June 20, 1968). The Ministry of Religions informed the movement that no such arrangement could be reached, since it would offend the masses of worshippers who insist on the separation of men and women. A stormy debate erupted at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Soon after, the Reform Movement informed the prime minister that they had decided not to hold prayer sessions at the wall until the day when they would be able to worship based on the principle of religious freedom and freedom of conscience.

This article mentions the above incident, and also see this post. Maybe Eshkol can be credited with being the founding member of Women of the Wall.

3 Responses to “Levi Eshkol against the Mehitzah at the Kotel”

  1. 1
    DF:

    I agree. Eshkol is correctly seen as their founding member because, while a good Jew no doubt, he was not at all religious, and neither is the “WOW”. And Eshkol’s “defense” of the concept is no defense. The Kotel is not a beit knesset- really? Abd because he’s seen synagoauges without mechitzah and “nothing bad happened”, that’s a reason not to have them? That doesnt even need a response.

  2. 2
    Rebecca Lesses:

    You clearly know nothing about Women of the Wall if you consider them “not at all religious.” I know the women – some are Orthodox, others are Reform or Conservative. They go to the Wall to *pray* and *read Torah* after all – hardly the actions of a non-religious person.

  3. 3
    DF:

    Sure they’re religious. But its the religion of feminism, not Judaism. Look at the pictures of the most recent “look at me!” event at the Kotel. The sorry males they rounded up are not wearing tefillin, while the women are. QED.

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