The Political Transformation of Gender Traditions at the Western Wall in Jerusalem

By Stuart Z. Charmé

Indiana University Press, Spring 2005

In recent years the Western Wall in Jerusalem has become a site of conflict and contention between liberal and feminist Jews, on the one hand, and strictly religious Jews, on the other hand, over the permissible roles for women in the religious rituals and activities that take place there. It would be easy to characterize this struggle as an effort to claim for Jewish women a larger share of a sacred space that, like an Orthodox synagogue, is currently dominated, regulated, and controlled by Orthodox men. Of course, like many religions, traditional Judaism offers rationales for different gender roles in religion, such as the supposedly higher "spiritual" nature of women, which makes certain religious obligations of men unnecessary; and women's central role in child care and the domestic realm of the family. Orthodox Judaism defends the practices at the Wall, moreover, in light of what it regards as the clear demands of Jewish law and custom. This article will challenge the unproblematic acceptance of these religious explanations by analyzing some of the unarticulated political and social functions that such gender roles serve and ways in which those functions have become further complicated by Jewish nationalism and the place of religion within Israel, both before and since the creation of a modern nation-state.

Topic: Political Behavior, History, Gender, Jerusalem, Feminism, Religion and State, Prayer, Orthodox Judaism, Statehood, Women, Politics, Nationalism

Name of Publication: Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion

Volume/Issue: Vol.21/no.1

Page Number(s): 5-34

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Genre: Scholarly Journal

Coverage: Jerusalem, Israel

Language: English

Copyright Holder: Author

Copyright Information: Download for personal use, freely distribute link

Bibliographic Information:
Charmé, Stuart Z. The Political Transformation of Gender Traditions at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. Indiana University Press. Spring 2005: 5-34.


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