Examining a Rumor About Israel Started by ‘Women of the Wall’ and Repeated by the Guardian

February 20, 2013 1:33 am 0 comments

Western Wall. Photo: Wayne McLean.

Harriet Sherwood’s Feb. 17 report in the Guardian, ‘Sarah Silverman tweet puts women’s Western Wall protest in global spotlight‘, focused on a protest by an organization called ‘Women of the Wall’ against restrictions imposed on women who pray at the Kotel in Jerusalem – an act of civil disobedience last Monday undertaken by a group which included Rabbi Susan Silverman (comedian Sarah Silverman’s sister).

While such protests aren’t uncommon, interest in the story (as the Guardian title suggested) intensified after Sarah Silverman tweeted support for her sister, who was one of ten women briefly detained by police for violating prayer customs.

While issues regarding such gender-based restrictions naturally resonate with many Israelis who seek to loosen Haredi (Orthodox) control over religious matters in the state, the following quote by Hoffman, in Sherwood’s story, purporting to highlight the religious-secular divide in one Israeli community, strained credulity.

Despite some notable legal victories, “this is still a huge issue”, said [Anat] Hoffman, who is also director of the Israel Religious Action Centre, which campaigns against segregation and the exclusion of women. “Every day we get calls reporting things to us. Just yesterday, we heard that the water-drinking fountains at Petah Tikva cemetery have been segregated.”

Since Hoffman evidently didn’t reveal the identity of her source to Sherwood, we decided to contact our friend Anne (A resident of Petah Tikvah who blogs at Anne’s Opinions) for comment.

Here’s  her reply:

I decided to go to the cemetery to see for myself.  Whilst I first checked with my husband and sister to see if they remembered any such water fountains (and they both said it’s rubbish), I wanted to confirm for myself that nothing had changed recently, as suggested in the article.

As it happened I got there during a funeral (so I visited my grandmother’s grave while I was there) and then wandered around and took photos of the taps. First of all, there are no “drinking fountains” at the cemetery. I don’t think any cemetery has these. What they do have are taps to ritually wash your hands when leaving the cemetery (Netilat Yadayim). As you can see (in the photos below), there were men and women washing hands together. The second set of taps are located outside the men’s toilets but are certainly used by both men and women. As you can see, there is no sign at all about separation, and I have washed my hands there many times. The “wall” dividing the two sides is simply to allow more taps in one small area.

I’ve been (sadly) to many funerals, most of them for religious people, and I’ve never washed hands separately or felt the need to do so voluntarily.

Here are the photos Anne took at the Petah Tikvah cemetery only yesterday.

pt
photo 4
photo 5

Those of us who blog for Israel know all too well that such seemingly little smears (no matter how flimsy the evidence) can often take on a life of their own.

Thanks to Anne, we now know that Hoffman’s rumor, carelessly repeated by the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, appears to be completely without merit.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Personalities How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    JNS.org – What would you do if you found out that you had only three more months to live? Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow-growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer metastasized to his liver, and that he had [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater 10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    Last month, my one-man show Hoaxocaust! Written and performed by Barry Levey with the generous assistance of the Institute for Political and International Studies, Tehran ran in the New York International Fringe Festival, where it won an Overall Excellence Award. The play has now been selected to run in the Fringe Encores Series at Baruch College’s Performing Arts Center, for four performances which started on Thursday, September 11. Getting the play to the stage was not easy, however. Here are [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Phenomenon: Tel Aviv-based musician and “sampler” extraordinaire, Kutiman (aka Ophir Kutiel) has hit another one out of the park with “Give It Up,” a fully-functioning song in its own right, assembled from hundreds of ameteur and instructional music videos. The Jerusalem-born musical prodigy is best know for his diverse online musical projects. In the latest video, uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 12th, Kutiel thanked most of the musicians and individuals he chose to include in the meticulously-edited clip, which opens with [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    A recently released behind-the-scenes reel of Ridley Scott’s upcoming film Exodus: Gods and Kings shows just how far the director has gone to portray one of the Bible’s most famous narratives. In the clip, which shows scenes involving up to 4,000 extras, the visionary director discusses what drew him to the biblical tale of Moses. “The Moses story was a massive challenge, which I really love. I wanted to explore the complexity of his character and I was stunned by [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    JNS.org – Since 2006, the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable and satellite TV network has hosted “The Projected Image,” a month-long showcase examining how different cultural and ethnic groups have been portrayed on the big screen. At last, after previously covering African Americans, Asians, the LGBT community, Latinos, Native Americans, Arabs, and people with disabilities, the annual series is delving into Jewish film this month. “The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film,” whose first segment aired Sept. 2, runs [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    The sight of young girls in pinafores and young boys wearing peyos – sidelocks – dangling over their ears is a sure sign that you have entered the enigmatic precincts of the Hasidim – the pious ones. Veteran New York Times journalist Joseph Berger’s new book, THE PIOUS ONES: The World of Hasidim and their Battles with America, takes the reader on a journey into the enclaves where various sects of Jews live a seemingly outmoded way of life in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.