I have longed for thy salvation, O L-RD; and thy Torah is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalm 119:174-176

29 October 2012

The Girl Effect, part 11

I'm thinking about the last two posts I made, and I was at an almost loss of what to post for part eleven. Then, as if by chance, I found several news articles that are quite appropriate for the discussion at hand. 

I actually laughed when I saw them, because they are so perfect to prove the point I'm trying to make.

For several years, I've been following the movement in Israel, "Women of the Wall". (see also wiki) For most of you unacquainted with Israel, Judaism and The Kotel also known as The Western Wall/The Wailing Wall - it might be a surprise how little of the Western Wall is available for women to pray at. 
It may also surprise you that women are not free to use some expressions of their faith at the wall... and this "offense" (their worship) is seen mostly "Unladylike" and blasphemy.

I lost where I found this - if this is yours -
please let me know so I can give you credit!

The women's worship area takes up about 1/3rd of the entire area, and often is crammed full of women, while the men's section is large, and not always occupied. Due to issues of modesty, women and female children are NOT allowed on the men's side to worship or talk.  Women's activities on the women's side are strictly regulated. According to Israeli Law: No religious ceremony shall be in held in the women's section of the Western Wall. That includes holding or reading a Torah, blowing the shofar (ram’s horn) or wearing tallitot (prayer shawls). To find out more about what is actually illegal, click here.

Women of the Wall are in the news again - due to an arrest of members of this organization recently. Why were they arrested?

 "I was arrested for disturbing the peace and endangering the public good by wearing my tallit and saying the Shema out loud." (Anat Hoffman)

She said that she was asked to lower her voice and did, and was asked to change the way in which she wore her tallit, which she also did. But despite complying, one of the police officers "grabbed my arm, pulled it behind my back, and took me to the police station. When we turned the corner, and it was quite dark there, he pulled my arm even harder, even though I showed no resistance. He hurt me, and when I said 'this is hurting me', he looked like 'that was the purpose of the whole thing, lady.' When I asked him at the police station 'why am I being detained?' he said 'because you resisted coming with me'"
Woman of the wall Anat Hoffman complains of treatment after arrest

 “This law is ludicrous. The role of women in religion has changed throughout the world — everywhere but Israel. At the Wall, there are 13 regulations, 12 of which passed under the reign of King George V in 1924, thank you very much. Then in 1993, they passed a 13th regulation: one cannot perform a religious act that offends the feelings of others..."
Interview: Anat Hoffman
  On October 17th, she was arrested at the Western Wall for — brace yourself — praying. It’s not even the first time she’s been arrested at The Wall. The reason the arrest occurred was that she was wearing a tallit and praying — out loud!at the wall. And as a woman, her choice to do so did not fall within the realm of the far-right Chief Rabbinate’s definition of acceptable halachic (Jewish legal) practice.
Arresting the Victim (Again)
 Two other women were detained by police the next day for violating the "customary practices" of the site by wearing a tallit. They did not pray in the very spacious part of the Western Wall plaza allotted to the men, but in the smaller area designated for women. All three women are members of "Women of the Wall," an Israeli organization of women from all streams of Judaism who have been gathering together every Rosh Hodesh (first of the month) for over 20 years for one purpose only: to exercise their right to pray at the Western Wall.
Was the Kotel Liberated? ( Make sure you look at the photos on this one! ) 
 ... a very important principle was articulated by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein when asked about women adopting practices that had previously been male preserves. ... If they are deeply spiritual and they think, act and pray out of deep, overwhelming love for God, that is one thing; but if they act out of militancy, in order to make a point (and impliedly rebel against established tradition), it is inappropriate, to say the least....
Judaism: Women and the Western Wall

It's ludicrous, isn't it?  Something that most all of us just take for granted every day in our own homes, in our churches, synagogues - we just are not allowed to do at the Western Wall. We can't hold a Torah Scroll. We can't wrap Tefillin. No Tzitzit/Tallit katan.  Must be dressed in accordance with Orthodox standards. Don't be loud. Don't talk to or interact with the men on the other side of the divider.. and most of all, do not pray above a whisper.

I guess someone should go back and tell that to Miriam and the women at the sea. Or maybe Hannah who was accused of being drunk while praying in anguish.. or Philip's daughters.. or how about all those women in the Brit Chadasha?  Oops. I guess none of them got the memo.  I guess by our standards today, they are quite unladylike - though they knew where the goal was and they strove to arrive there.

Today, over and over, all across the world in every culture - women are being told to put up AND shut up. (rather than put up or shut up) It's not just Israel. It's not just Canada or the United States. It's not just the UK or Europe at large. It is  E. V. E. R. Y. W. H. E. R. E.

Until somewhere towards the Middle Ages, Women had rather active roles in both Judaism and Christianity. I'm still researching and trying to get to the bottom of this massive change and work my head around all of that... and the more I investigate, the more I keep having it shoved right in my face that no matter what I do, I have some man (it always seems to be!) telling me what I can or cannot do, simply because I have different physical parts than he does. Not because I am less intelligent, or perhaps untrained, oh no, simply because I am anatomically different.

Why?? It was not so in Genesis, why is it so now? It was not so in Paul's day, why is it now? What changed between Paul and the Middle Ages?

In my quest to get to the bottom of all of this, I've watched the BBC 2, three-part series entitled "Divine Women" with Bettany Hughes.  If you haven't seen it and do not have access to the BBC web archives, the episodes are available on Youtube.
Episode 1 is entitled "When God was a girl" - and focuses on the evolution of the goddess in Turkey, Greece, Rome and India.  - you could skip this one as it really does not focus on Biblical faith, unless you are interested in archaeology like I am.  *wink*
Episode 2 is "The Handmaids of God" and focuses on the story of priestesses and further into the episode, the elevated role of women in the early Christian church. There's evidence of women deacons, apostles, pastors and other high positions that have long been denied women.
Episode 3 is "The War of the Word" and covers just about everything you can think of, including Islam.

“The role of women in the first 300 years of the church was a vigorous one, and has been played down by history... Females were also clearly involved not just in the administration but also the theological practise of the early Christian church... ...there are wall paintings of women administering Eucharist, and women dressed as priests.”
She goes on to say:
“Two of the first converts to Islam are women, two of Mohammed’s wives,” she said.
“Women were actually teaching in the mosques in Medina, in Syria, in Cairo and in Jerusalem... so women were an integral part of early Islam, which is something that’s been lost."
Divine Women: Bettany Hughes Charts Role Of Women In Early Church In BBC Series

I keep finding the same information. Uphill battles of many women who wished to become missionaries or work in NGOs...pastors or leaders of children and young adult programs in their congregations... all positions not forbidden by the Bible whatsoever. (You might find this PDF, or this PDF about African Churches enlightening, to say the very least.)

In some parts of the world, women are still seen as little more than property. Choice food is denied to them due to hierarchy issues in their cultures, and they have little to no say over their reproductive rights or whether or not "it's" ok right now. Their husbands have the right over their bodies, but they do not have rights over their husband's.

Strangely enough - the same can be said of other patriarchal cultures, especially within Christianity and Judaism. It might not be couched in the same terms - but it is the same on some levels.

Basically you should be happy, compliant, and have your own thoughts kept to yourself.  It reminds me of the old children's song "If you're happy and you know it". It's this entire mentality that ladylike = Demure, quiet, always happy all the time, submissive to a fault, modest to a fault, sex kitten in the bedroom, ignorant but not so much it's embarrassing, but still trying to meet all of Proverbs 31 when you're told you can't do parts of it because it's unladylike...

It's sort of.. bi-polar, no?

The bible NEVER says that about women. All the Eyshet Chayil of the Bible are very strong, vocal characters. ALL of them. And we're getting close to Chanukkah - there is a woman in the Book of Maccabees we read about as well  - and all of these are  anything BUT quiet little ladies sequestered in their corner of society.

Does this sound quiet, submissive and demure?

20 The mother was the most amazing one of them all, and she deserves a special place in our memory. Although she saw her seven sons die in a single day, she endured it with great courage because she trusted in the Lord. 21 She combined womanly emotion with manly courage and spoke words of encouragement to each of her sons in their native language.
22 I do not know how your life began in my womb, she would say,
I was not the one who gave you life and breath and put together each part of your body.
23 It was God who did it, God who created the universe, the human race, and all that exists. He is merciful and he will give you back life and breath again, because you love his laws more than you love yourself.

 27 Leaning over her son, she fooled the cruel tyrant by saying in her native language,
    My son, have pity on me. Remember that I carried you in my womb for nine months and nursed you for three years. I have taken care of you and looked after all your needs up to the present day. 28 So I urge you, my child, to look at the sky and the earth. Consider everything you see there, and realize that God made it all from nothing, just as he made the human race. 29 Don't be afraid of this butcher. Give up your life willingly and prove yourself worthy of your brothers, so that by God's mercy I may receive you back with them at the resurrection.
-2 Maccabees 7

Sounds pretty strong to me.  Sounds pretty...  unafraid and defiant. 

I'm just speechless today thinking about all of this, and all that comes are tears. Why is this "justice" what we are to strive for? Inequality.... it's not equality though the word is in there. 

James over at Morning Meditations had a post this past week entitled "Stealing a Conversation About Ephesians, Jesus, and Being a Christian" . It was a jump-off post from Gene Shlomovich’s blog post One-Law Gentile has a change of heart.

But what stood out is the exact heart of the issue I have been driving at this entire series.

… Alternately, if he came to bring the nations into reconciliation to God and to allow us to become members of the Kingdom as the goal, then our entire focus changes. Love, grace, compassion, mercy all become our focus and the mitzvot of feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and granting mercy and grace as it has been granted to us becomes the fabric woven into our lives as believers.

IF Y'shua came to bring us reconciliation to G-d - the very focus we should have is what James brings forward. Why then, is there so much injustice, misogyny, lack of grace, love, compassion and mercy? Why are the sick being abandoned?? Why are the widows and fatherless left behind?

I don't know... but I'm pushing towards the goal and I'll keep digging.

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