Bob’s tallit and the Women of the Wall
That women have been getting arrested at the Western Wall on Rosh Hodesh (the first day of the new Hebrew month) for praying and wearing men’s tallitot (prayer shawls) is old news by now. David wrote about the latest round-up on Monday, and the Israeli and Jewish press has gobbled it up as the arrests have come more frequently in the last months. But, thus far, the story has not moved beyond the Jewishly-interested world…until comedienne Sarah Silverman got involved.
As David reported, Rabbi Susan Silverman, Sarah’s sister in Jerusalem, and Susan’s 17-year-old daughter Hallel were among those hauled down to the police this week. Sarah tweeted about it in her usual provocative style:
SO proud of my amazing sister & niece for their ballsout civil disobedience.
(There was another sentence at the end that’s a bit ribald to repeat – search Sarah Silverman on Twitter, it’s right near the top.)
And from there it went viral, with international media coverage from the Associated Press to The New York Times.
But none of that would have happened if it weren’t for my friend Bob. Bob is Susan Silverman’s downstairs neighbor (we actually all live within a block of each other in Jerusalem). So when Susan and Hallel wanted to join the Women of the Wall this week, Susan asked to borrow a tallit…a men’s style tallit, rather than her usual more girl-y shawl. One that would make an unambiguous statement.
Which it certainly did, as Susan and Hallel were among the ten women detained and given temporary restraining orders from re-approaching the Western Wall for a fortnight. You can see Bob’s multi-colored tallit in the picture above taken by Tova Lazaroff.
Bob and I have been friends for years and I’ve seen him in that tallit many times. It’s never caused a ruckus before. But put it on a woman in the Old City of Jerusalem and watch all hell broke loose.
“It’s just so utterly absurd that there are laws against Jews praying wearing their prayer clothes in Israel,” Susan Silverman told The New York Times.
I wonder if the same would be true if a man wore a dress to the other side of the mechitza? Anyone up for giving it a try. Hey, Purim’s coming up.