Abstract

This article analyzes the struggle of the Women of the Wall (WoW), a minority group of religious, activist, and feminist women challenging the Orthodox, male, hegemonic status quo at Judaism’s holiest site: the Western Wall. Since 1988, the group has been holding prayer services every Rosh Hodesh at the Wall with and without interruptions according to its custom—wrapped in colorful tallitot and reading aloud from the Torah. This article, based on interviews with the major political actors involved and content analysis of primary documents and publications, presents the action strategies of the various parties involved and analyzes the dispute’s conflict resolution methods. It explores a series of questions: first, what has enabled legal and public recognition of a minority group’s local custom that challenges the hegemonic status quo at the Western Wall? Second, how has a small group of women succeeded over more powerful forces in breaking the status quo in favor of a gender-oriented, pluralistic-religious agenda? Third, what are the implications of these achievements for arrangements at the Wall and other contentious holy places? This case contributes to existing scholarship on religious feminism as well as on shared and divided holy spaces, as the controversy exists not between two religions, but between different streams within Judaism.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 79-107
Launched on MUSE
2016-04-02
Open Access
No
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