Israel

Women Praying at Western Wall

Orthodox Worshipers Protest Bat Mitzvah at Western Wall

March 3, 2017

As feminist prayer group Women of the Wall arrived at the Western Wall in Jerusalem Monday for a bat mitzvah ceremony and their monthly prayer service, they found their way blocked by crowds of dissenters.

The Women of the Wall have sparked extreme backlash in Israel for their petitions to change gendered restrictions at the Kotel, or Western Wall. They seek a space at the wall for women and men to pray together—currently, the Western Wall has only sex-segregated spaces. The group has also advocated for women’s right to read Torah at the Kotel.

Catholic Arab Wins Israel’s First Transgender Beauty Pageant

Catholic Arab Wins Israel’s First Transgender Beauty Pageant

June 1, 2016

Last week, a friendly competition in Tel Aviv, Israel brought together Christians, Orthodox Jews, and Muslims in ways that event coordinators believe showcased the groups’ potential for acceptance and coexistence. The event was the first of its kind: a transgender beauty pageant, held to kick off Tel Aviv’s LGBT Pride week.

Spectators packed Tel Aviv’s Bima National Theater Friday to cheer on the pageant’s 12 finalists, a group that included a Muslim belly dancer, a Catholic Arab ballerina, and an Orthodox Jewish baker.

Israel to Create Mixed-Gender Prayer Site at Western Wall

Israel to Create Mixed-Gender Prayer Site at Western Wall

February 5, 2016

This week, the Israeli government approved the creation of an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall, a remnant of Herod the Great’s expansion of the Second Jewish Temple considered to be the holiest Jewish site.

The decision follows years of contentious debate between Orthodox Jews—who do not permit mixed-gender prayer—and Conservative and Reform Jews, who have lobbied for their right to egalitarian prayer.

Amidst Conflict, Israeli Bilingual School Unites Communities

Amidst Conflict, Israeli Bilingual School Unites Communities

November 12, 2015

In six elementary schools across Israel, the sounds of children speaking both Hebrew and Arabic can be heard throughout the halls. These schools, called Yad B’Yad—a phrase that means “hand in hand” in both Hebrew and Arabic—have, in many ways, a simple mission: “building shared society” between Jewish and Arab members of Israeli communities. However, in a nation that has been rife with enmity and conflict, many citizens feel that Yad B’Yad is breaking revolutionary ground.

Israelis and Palestinians: 12 Voices on the Future
Bryant CC. Israelis and Palestinians: 12 Voices on the Future. Christian Science Monitor [Internet]. 2015. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Mideast conflict is not doomed to stalemate. Right and left, religious and secular, hawkish and peacenik, a wide spectrum of Israelis and Palestinians are implementing their vision for the future without waiting for their leaders – or a peace deal.

Israel toughens police tactics against Jewish terrorists

Israel toughens police tactics against Jewish terrorists

August 6, 2015

Two horrific attacks in Israel this week have prompted “a rare outpouring of self-reproach and soul-searching among Israelis across the political spectrum,” in the words of New York Times reporter Isabel Kershner. In focus: the state’s seemingly lax attitude toward violent Jewish extremists, compared to notoriously harsh policies for Palestinian suspects.

Ultra-Orthodox women's politics in Israel

Ultra-Orthodox women's politics in Israel

March 3, 2015

Michele Chabin of the Religion News Service writes this week about Israeli female politicians in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Haredi sect, who have established their own political party leading up to a bid for parliament. Their campaign will feature no advertisements or rabbinical endorsements, just "word-of-mouth recommendations and faith." While they're not expected to garner enough votes to enter the Knesset, their actions alone are remarkable: