Of course Women of the Wall's radical connections matter
AVRAHAM’S RESEARCH demonstrates that [Anat] Hoffman and Kallus are political animals, not just spiritual seekers motivated by their intense attachment to the Western Wall. And it strongly suggests that the prime motivation of the leaders of WoW is to advance an agenda consistent with their other political work.I would just note that it would actually be in poor form for Orthodox - or Haredis, the real loudmouths in this case - to make such a ruckus over a molehill, and the police were wrong to throw a Conservative group out of the plaza in the mid 90s. I'm actually disappointed if Rosenblum is letting Haredis off the hook by failing to condemn any reprehensible behavior on their part, and would be doubly so if the Conservatives in my family were harrassed - even though Conservative prayer customs are a lot simpler than Reform and women in the Conservative movement are far from practicing with male gear like tefillin - and found out Rosenblum failed to lift a finger in defense of my grandparents against hooligans.
The power of the Western Wall derives, in large part, from its role as a symbol of Jewish continuity, from the time of the First and Second Temples until today. Those who identify with organizations like Ir Amim and Emek Shaveh, which oppose Israeli archeological work in the Old City, as part of a sinister “Judaization of Jerusalem,” and who are allied with groups calling for the return of east Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount and Western Wall, to Palestinian control, are apparently not terribly moved by Jewish continuity and its symbols.
In truth, Hoffman has always been rather forthright that the Western Wall Plaza had value in her eyes primarily as a place to make political statements – “to be seen,” in her words – and provoke confrontation. Hoffman admits she feels no particular attachment to places, the Western Wall included. And her Reform Movement long ago declared, “One should not consider the Western Wall as possessing any sanctity.”
She has no answer for the question posed long ago by Hillel Halkin, “Are there no other places in Jerusalem to practice Jewish feminism, that they must do it at the one site where it is sure to infuriate large numbers of Orthodox Jews?” – a question that takes on special gravity given Hoffman’s admission that the Western Wall has no real sanctity in her eyes.
But he's got a good point that Hoffman's claim she wants "to see and be seen" praying at the Western Wall is no substitute for saying she wants to pray to the Lord Our God, and thus renders her true motives suspect. That's just the giveaway of her provocation motivation.
Even so, it would be very bad for Orthodox Judaism if its adherents were to act as though being Orthodox alone makes you qualified for prayer at the Western Wall and not belonging to the movement makes it a crime to pray there, and that's why Orthodox adherents - especially Haredis - would do well to refrain from giving the image they're superficially hostile to non-Orthodox movements. And it's a pity that Orthodox have been allowing a poseur like Hoffman to all but monopolize legitimate arguments about women's rights and discrimination.
To keep phonies like Hoffman from hijacking the legit topics, that's why the Orthodox movement must start speaking out and not worrying about conflicts.