I saw it early on Thursday morning, when we were privileged to be just outside the main entrance of the Western Wall (Judaism's holiest site) to pray with Women of the Wall. (Background: keep in mind that Israel considers the Wall to be like an Orthodox synagogue, where designated/separate prayer sections have been established for men and women respectively. Women, historically, have not had the right to lead their own services out loud there, or read from the Torah there (things that men can, of course, do in the Men's section).
Thanks to the tremendous advocacy work of our Movement more than a year ago, the Israeli government had announced a compromise plan that would have allowed for the meaningful creation of an egalitarian prayer space where any Jewish group (including Women of the Wall) could gather and pray as they are inclined to...at the Wall itself. The Prime Minister's Office sadly walked away from that compromise deal several months ago. More recently, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled on a related question: it is now unlawful for police at the Wall to conduct security searches of women differently from the way that they search men. (Background: when men read from Torah at the Wall, there are scrolls available for them to use that are stored in an appropriate space at the wall. Because women's groups are not allowed to read from the Torah, no scrolls are available for them. As a result, Women of the Wall have had to hide miniature scrolls underneath their jackets in order to bring them in.) Happily, the Supreme Court ruled that women shouldn't be asked to unzip their jackets (so that they can be checked for hiding a Torah scroll!) unless the police are prepared to start searching men in the same way (they aren't).
So: we were there on Thursday morning to stand together, to pray, and to respectfully test whether the police would honor the recent Supreme Court ruling.
The good news: there wasn't too much physical violence. No one was hurt or arrested.
The bad news: it was heart-breaking to watch as the police chose to ignore the Court's ruling. Women of the Wall had decided that if they were going to be forced to open their jackets, they would instead hold a "sit in" in front of the security checkpoint. The "sit in" became a "pray in." As we stood together, and prayed, for a State of Israel that might allow a thriving and diversely pluralistic 21st century Judaism to flourish in the same way that 21st century high-tech flourishes throughout the rest of the country. I was honored to be a part of the proceedings, particularly during this week in which some in our country are also speaking out in favor of women's rights.
And others in the group were deeply inspired. These Israelis chose to live in Netiv HaAsarah - not in one of the Gaza settlements (which existed before Israel's disengagement from Gaza 10 years ago). Netiv HaAsarah is on land that is essentially undisputed territory vis a vis the international community. It has exactly the same status as Tel Aviv or West Jerusalem. (And these Israelis would respectfully remind us that Tel Aviv and West Jerusalem are also vulnerable to these missiles - though it's true that they get 1 minute 45 seconds notice.) Their decision to live in Netiv HaAsarah is an expression of genuine Zionist pioneering spirit, they say. They want to live there because they want to be a part of modern Israel...to strengthen it and make it bloom.
The beauty of this sort of Israel debate is that there is no right answer. I'm looking forward to hearing what you think about it as we reflect together upon my return.