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Double-speak still rules

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Several weeks ago, an editorial in this space condemned the attacks on Women of the Wall, which has struggled since 1988 to pray peaceably, and halachically, together on Rosh Chodesh at the Western Wall. As we wrote then, the women involved do not question the mechitza there or seek to cross it. Yet they have been subjected to violence, threats, and curses.

Sadly, that harassment continues. On Monday, men and women worshipping at the Western Wall shouted insults at the praying women, calling them “Nazis” and other names.

Ironically, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, rabbi of the Western Wall, condemned the women’s group, noting that “the different movements need to understand the complexity and sensitivity of the Western Wall, and leave it outside the borders of conflict.”

A similar mind-bending incident occurred last Friday, when Palestinian protesters demonstrating against Israel’s separation barrier near the village of Bilin painted themselves blue and posed as characters from “Avatar” — complete with pointed ears, long hair, and loincloths.

Even crediting them for creativity, one cringes at the image of these seemingly guileless demonstrators contending against Israeli tear gas, adding fuel to the media firestorm against Israel. Ironically, again, the protest came a day after Israel began rerouting the wall so that it would encroach less on the village.

We must not let word-spinners distort these important issues, confounding the victims and victimizers.

And on Monday, an attempt was made to destroy Shira Hadasha, a Conservative synagogue in Arad, Israel. According to the Association of Reform Zionists of America, the attack comes a year after another attempt to burn down the synagogue and days after an attempted break-in there. While the perpetrators are still being sought, ARZA says the incident should be seen “in the context of growing violence and fanaticism within the Israeli ultra-Orthodox community.”

Among other places, the Reform statement appeared on the Website Clearly, readers of that site felt that the statement should not have been there. Comments following the piece questioned the use of the word “shul” for the Reform synagogue, stated that the Reform were the fanatics, asserted that the Reform movement has nothing to do with Judaism, and said that printing the piece called into question the Website’s frum credentials.

This is not who we are. This is not the religion that taught the world tolerance and respect. Nor — if we have any chance of prevailing against those who wish us ill — can we engage in this kind of divisiveness. Whether our motive is self-respect or self-preservation, this travesty must end.


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A view from the pew


Toward an end to gun violence

It is not entirely foreign to Jews to imagine being massacred at prayer.

This is not even a question of historical memory, although our story overflows with such murderous episodes. No, we just have to think back to last November, when assassins burst into a synagogue at Har Nof, in Jerusalem, and butchered four men there as they stood lost in the Amidah, the silent prayer at the heart of the service.

Then the killers slaughtered a Druze policeman who tried to protect the daveners.

Last week, a crazed, racist 21-year-old, a loser with a bowl haircut, dead eyes, and a gun, went into the Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston, like Jerusalem, is an old city (although of course here in the New World we measure age in centuries; in Israel it’s in millennia). It’s been at the heart of the slave trade, and so represented evil, but it is also beautiful, graceful, quirky, and a bustling tourist destination.



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