No Gender Segregation Really Needed At The Western Wall, Liberal Haredi Rabbi Says
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Ashkenazi haredi MK Rabbi Yaakov Asher from the haredi United Torah Judaism party told the Knesset one day last week that he read something in a daily newspaper that made his “blood boil.”
What was it?
It was a statement by American born and raised, newly elected MK Dov Lipman from Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party – who, Asher said derisively, “calls himself haredi” but really isn’t – defending women’s right to pray at the Kotel (Western Wall) wearing tallits (prayer shawls) and tefillin (phylacteries), Yeshiva World reported.
“I heard [Ashkenazi haredi MK Moshe] Gafne’s words [against those women] and I am surprised. I ask myself why men are looking in the direction of the women as the Kotel…,” Asher said Lipman told the paper.
Asher then turned to Lipman and said, “I have one request, please don’t speak as a haredi and don’t ridicule people after you entered Knesset only after a certain person [Yair Lapid, who haredi MKs prefer not to mention by name just as they won’t say the names of idols and false gods] felt you dress haredi so you are haredi.”
Lipman was given three minutes by the speaker of the Knesset to respond.
Quoting the Prophet Jeremiah, Lipman said that someone who is “haredi b’davar Hashem” (awed by or fearful of the word of God) is haredi. We need to have manners and mutual respect, Lipman said, pointing out that it is wrong to judge who is and who is not a haredi. Judging that, Lipman claimed, is up to God.
Lipman went on to point out that historic photos show (clearly haredi) men and women praying side-by-side at the Kotel without any gender segregation.
Why was that okay then? And why is it okay now?
Because, Lipman insisted, while the Kotel is a holy site, under halakha, Jewish law, it is not governed by the halakhot, laws, of a synagogue, and therefore strict gender separation is not necessary.
Lipman closed his brief remarks by stressing the importance of unity, and asked his counterparts to not hold the Torah hostage with short-sighted definitions of others.
He was heckled by haredi lawmakers during much of the time he spoke.