Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On the HuffPo Details Matter

The religion section hosted an article by Vanessa L. Ochs about the "Women of the Wall," an important organization whose work I support, most of the time. The trouble is that Ms. Ochs, in classic Huffington Post style, embellishes a few things and in the process stirs up the readership to hate Israel further (which I guess is not very hard). Let me give you a couple of examples:
"Then, on the New Moon of Elul (Aug. 19) four women were arrested for the crime of wearing prayer shawls that the police, acting as arbiters of fashion, decided were too manly."
I'm sorry but that isn't correct. The police were not acting as arbiters of fashion. What they were doing was keeping the peace. Because of the dumb laws in Israel allowing the Haredim too much political power, there are restrictions in place about women doing things like wearing prayer shawls at the Western Wall.

Is it a bad law? Yes. Is it contrary to freedom, and democracy, and all that stuff? Sure, except that religion itself already is so it more or less comes with the territory. But what the Women of the Wall were doing was protesting the law by breaking it. It's called civil disobedience, and that's something to be proud of! So just say it! Why try to make it sound like they are doing something that they aren't?
"While I have been a supporter and organizer for Women of the Wall since its inception, I am not drawn to pray at the Wall. There is the matter of the Wall being a giant outdoor gender-segregated right-wing Orthodox synagogue. There is the status of the place. Is it a holy site or the major attraction of a Holy Land theme park? There was the distraction dodge endless request for alms."
It is gender segregated, definitely. In fact the women's section is a lot smaller than the men's, which is also ridiculous. But it's not "right wing," that's a political affiliation. When you go you have to cover your head and dress modestly. And if you're a woman, you can't carry or a Torah or wear certain clothing. Again, that's something that should be changed. But again, if that's what you want just say it. Ms. Ochs is right: it is a holy site. Which means that there's a lot of tension inherent around it, and maybe the police don't take too kindly to political activism (even ones with a righteous cause).

But what prompted me to write this response was this:
"Still, I have cast my fate with Women of the Wall for a simple reason: I believe Jewish women have the same rights as Jewish men to pray at Israel's holy sites." 
In this case, details matter. What she should have said was that Jewish women should have the same rights as Jewish men, period. As it stands now both men and women can pray at Israel's holy sites, they just can't bring all the same accouterments. I don't get why she used the term "pray" when that's not really what's going on here.

Anyway the rest of the article is about tense encounters with the police and basically pro-Women of the Wall advertising. The Huffington Posters, however, came away with the same conclusion:

On the Huffington Post there is only ever one conversation.

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