The Shmooze

Stricter Gender Rules at Western Wall on Sukkot

By Nathan Jeffay

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During the Jewish festival season, which finished yesterday here in Israel (and draws to a close tonight in the States), thousands have descended on the Western Wall. All sorts have made their way to the popular pilgrimage site, from secular to Haredi Jews, as well as a sizable contingency of Christians from around the world who visit Jerusalem every Sukkot. But all of them, it seems, are being subjected to norms of Haredi society.

The area directly in front of the wall itself — essentially a large synagogue as it is used for prayers — has long been segregated along gender lines, and this is relatively uncontroversial. But it seems that visitors in recent days have been instructed to segregate long before arriving at the wall — rather being asked to get in line, according to gender, ahead of the security checks for the whole Western Wall Plaza.

This extension of the gender-zoned area is symbolic of the current push for gender segregation across the public domain by Haredim. At the Western Wall, the zoned area was extended from the synagogue part of the plaza to the whole plaza and beyond. In Haredi society, demands for gender segregation are extending their reach from synagogues and schools to all areas, including busses and even, believe this recent report or not, streets.


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