Naomi Zeveloff has a story in this week’s Forward about a full-size replica of the Western Wall in the works in Wichita, Kansas targeted towards women who have had abortions.
An anti-abortion group, the Word of Life Church, is proposing to build this multimillion dollar “National Pro-Life Memorial and International Life Center” in the same city where abortion provider Dr. George Tiller lived and was gunned down by an anti-choice terrorist.
Included as a central aspect of the memorial, should it be built, will be a garden of crosses to represent what leaders call the “Holocaust” and “genocide” of the unborn, in addition to the replica of the wall. Pro-choice website RH Reality Check sees the memorial’s plans as part of a dangerous “my pro-life is bigger than your pro-life culture” which fosters extremism.
This plan is problematic, even offensive in so, so, so many ways. First of all, if any memorial gets built in Wichita it should be for Dr. Tiller who was a friend to women and a deeply compassionate provider.
Secondly, this is yet another example of Jewish culture, symbols and suffering being appropriated by right-wing American Christians. This has been a tactic of the “pro-life” movement for years — they can’t get enough of the abortion-equals-Holocaust analogy, and even the Anti-Defamation League, no great enemy of the Christian right-wing, has said to a few politicians, “ix-nay on the Holocaust-hay comparisons.”
For many Jews, the Western Wall is the living testament to centuries of Jewish suffering and exile. It’s deeply specific and personal, not a symbol to be appropriated. As feminist blogger “Angry Maiden” wrote recently, given that Jewish law isn’t anti-abortion, this “co-option [is] a gross misappropriation of a religious artifact and an affront to Judaism as a whole.”
She also has some stinging words for the state of actual children’s health in Kansas while this posturing and co-opting takes place.
Governor Brownback signed into law a new tax bill that raises taxes on the poorest 20 percent of Kansas residents, and saw his state drop to 40th in the country for infant mortality rates.
I have to wonder what the Women of the Wall would think.