From Rivkah's womb to the Western Wall

Rabbi Arthur Waskow

From Rivkah's Womb to the Western Wall

By Rabbi Arthur Waskow*

On Shavuot 1998 at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in June, ultra-Orthodox haredim attacked a group of American Conservative Jews, men and women, who gathered in an egalitarian minyan to pray at Judaism's most revered site.

Their battle echoed the struggle between Esau and Jacob within the womb of Rivkah (Gen. 25: 19-26). For two new and radically different versions of Judaism are struggling to be born, and they are locked in an intense struggle with each other.

On the one hand, there is an aborning Judaism that sees its own values as the only conceivably authentic version of Judaism, sees women and men as unalterably assigned by God to different spheres of life, claims sole ownership of the entire biblically defined Land of Israel for the Jewish people, and is ready to use both personal violence and the support of the state's police and military to those ends. (It was no accident that after attacking the egalitarian minyan, the Haredim started attacking Palestinians in the Old City of Jerusalem.)

On the other hand, there is an aborning Judaism that affirms religious pluralism is committed to the equal participation of women and men in all spheres of religious and public life, is willing to explore sharing the Land of Israel with the Palestinian children of Abraham and Hagar through Ishmael, and has used the methods of nonviolence toward these ends.

Both these Judaisms are new. One is an emerging State Orthodoxy, which is new because it is ready to use both state power and private violence

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