Archive for the ‘the places I would like to go’ Category
Head to the heart of any Middle Eastern city and find a vibrant commercial hub, usually in the shadow of a major mosque – the bazaar. An Iranian bazaar with incredible history (Marco Polo shopped there!) may now win the 2013 Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Read the rest of this entry »
Article source: http://www.greenprophet.com/2013/05/tabriz-bazaar-iran/
Every year since 1977, International Museum Day is held around the world on May 18 to increase public awareness of the role of museums in the development of society.
On the occasion of the International Museum Day 2013, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) is partnering with the United Nations’ Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s Memory of the World Programme, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year.
ICOM and Memory of the World, which is dedicated to world documentary heritage, and also share a common vision of safeguarding heritage for the benefit of society and the potential of its digitisation for the future.
Faisal Bin Qassim Museum collector and owner Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim al-Thani commented: “International Museum Day serves as a reminder of the significant role that museums play by keeping alive the past’s history, culture and traditions for the next generation to learn and draw from, thus enriching and influencing society in a positive way. This year’s theme of ‘Social Change’ underlines the relevance of museums today.”
An important bridge to the next generation is the new museum website, which presents the museums’ awesome collections and exhibits in mesmerising detail with photography, fully explained and documented at: http://www.fbqmuseum.org.
A new logo has added a contemporary touch to the centre for Islamic culture, arts and heritage.
Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al-Thani Museum Board of Trustees vice-chair Sheikha al-Anood bint Faisal al-Thani said: “Recently, we launched the first ‘Travelling Museum Exhibition in the Middle East’, showcasing the rich heritage of the Islamic art of Calligraphy, entitled: “The Beauty of Words” at the American University of Sharjah and received a rapturous reception from students, alumni and the University.”
She explained that the aim of the exhibition was to empower and expose students to some of the most distinguished and unique artworks that reflect the museum’s mission to encourage cultural exchange and promote history and art.
Later this year, the museum is donating important pieces to the British Museum in London to exhibit in October as part of the Qatar-UK Year of Culture 2013.
The museum’s second ‘Travelling Exhibition’ will thus be on show in the UK’s top tourist attraction that receives over six million visitors a year.
Sheikha al-Anood added: “Opening up the museum to the next generation of schoolchildren is something planned for this winter, to raise their awareness of history and culture and experience the past. It is an environment that holds so much that students can learn from and we hope to create a programme of interactive school visits that encourage them to draw and paint their impressions at the museum.”
One of Qatar’s leading entrepreneurs, Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim al-Thani is regarded as a key player in promoting the heritage and culture of Qatar.
Sheikh Faisal pioneered the establishment of a heritage venue to revive public interest and appreciation of local culture.
In 2012, Sheikh Faisal was awarded a title, “Heritage Personality of the Year”, for noteworthy achievements in heritage preservation organised under the patronage of the League of Arab States.
In northeast Syria the grass rises high, lush, and vivid green as spring turns to summer. The fertile valley of Hasaka province, nursed by the Khabur River and wedged between borders with Turkey and Iraq, grows most of Syria’s wheat, rice, vegetables, and even cotton. Neighbors are so close, and both borders so historically fraught, they hover like unwelcome shadows.
But this is northern Mesopotamia, once a stronghold of churches and Christian centers of learning among the oldest anywhere. From here came the oldest Syriac liturgies still in use. From here went the earliest missionaries, carrying Christianity to central Asia, India, and China.
Hasaka province is also home to some of the oldest cities in the world—marked now by excavations of vast tells with names in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus. Christians preceded the Arabs, Turkmen, and Kurds in the province, and for centuries the groups have lived alongside one another. More recently, starting in the 1950s, discoveries of petroleum reserves made Hasaka strategically important, home to Syria’s small but lucrative oil industry.
Resource-rich and demographically diverse, Hasaka this year has become a pivotal battleground in Syria’s two-year-old civil war. Rebels since February have taken over significant portions of the province—including oilfields essential to the survival of the regime led by President Bashar al-Assad.
As they’ve done so they are demonstrating the problems for the United States in funding the opponents of Assad: Just which ones?
Armed fighters who began in 2011 as the Free Syrian Army have fractured into dozens of militant groups. They include the Farouq Brigades, a jihadist group of defectors from the Syrian Army that emerged from the historically Christian city of Homs early in the fighting. And jihadist forces from outside Syria have grown:
• Two Saudi-backed groups under variations of the name Jabhat al-Tahrir al-Souriya al-Islamiya mount a force estimated at 40,000.
• A third group of about 15,000 named Ahfad al-Rasoul is supported by Qatar.
• Perhaps the most dangerous, the al-Nusra Front, draws support from al-Qaeda in Iraq and has been designated by the U.S. State Department a foreign terrorist organization (meaning it’s capable of exporting terror to Western targets). These aim to put in place an Islamic jihadist state following an anticipated overthrow of Assad.
As bloody battles and Islamic stridency unfold in the northeastern cities of Hasaka, Christian churches and homes are targets. In the town of Ras al-Ayn fighters burned homes and destroyed churches in March. Al Nusra set up Sharia councils to carry out extremist Islamic laws. Christian families now regularly receive threat letters warning them to leave or be killed. The result: Religious cleansing that threatens to empty longstanding Christian villages. Hasaka church officials say the province had at least 300,000 Christians less than a year ago and now has less than 180,000.
Hasaka province, then, is a snapshot of the vicious devolution of what began in 2011 as one of the more peaceful and organized “Arab Spring” uprisings. It also illustrates the complex questions facing U.S. and other Western leaders under increasing pressure to do something to diffuse the chaotic fighting that has displaced an estimated 5 million Syrians—nearly a quarter of the population—according to the latest UN figures.
It’s increasingly difficult to determine who—if anyone—deserves Western support. Yet Western intervention to many seems inevitable, with over 70,000 killed, mostly civilians, and threats growing of loosed chemical weapons and a wider war in the Middle East.
Like Hasaka province itself, the prospects of a future under either Islamist rebels or the government with its cruel authoritarianism hem in Syrians from both sides.
Bassam Ishak is well versed in what it’s like in Hasaka to run out of options. When he was 11 years old the government confiscated all the land owned by his Syriac Christian family—over 1,200 acres in Hasaka province. Overnight his father lost his business and all his possessions: “We had to move to a new town, change our home and schools, and borrow money to survive.”
Now 52, Ishak remembers taunts and threats to his family from the newly ruling Ba’ath Party. For 22 years his father Said Ishak was a member of Parliament, widely known as a devout Christian and as an opponent of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party—even before it seized power in 1963 and Hafez al-Assad took charge in 1970. The father of the current president began nationalizing property, targeting and imprisoning political opponents.
The family survived for a time in Damascus but emigrated to the United States in 1981. “In Syria if you choose opposition you either go to jail or you leave the country,” Ishak told me.
Article source: http://www.worldmag.com/2013/05/turning_syria_inside_out
Last Sunday, Pope Francis canonized the 800 Christian martyrs executed by Muslim Ottoman forces raiding southern Italy in 1480.According to reports coming from Rome, the 800 were killed because they refused to convert to Islam. What both global media and modern sensitive Muslims here in Egypt have little or no understanding of, was the customary rules of warfare in medieval and Renaissance times, on both sides of the firing line. Basically those towns or villages under siege that did not sue for peace, when called upon to surrender, were quite customarily put to the sword when their walls or defense lines were finally stormed.
I can understand why to a believer there is something profoundly indecent when someone blasphemes against God or insults a religion
There were variations in the application of this tradition. The difference between the Ottoman massacre of the 800 Christians at Otranto and, let us say, the Crusader massacre of thousands of Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem, is that women and children were enslaved at Otranto instead of being put to the sword, as was the case in Jerusalem. The men of Otranto were offered the customary opportunity – according to the Muslim rules of warfare – to save themselves by converting to Islam.
In other words, the 800 men of Otranto were not executed for refusing to convert to Islam, rather they declined the opportunity via conversion to be spared execution for refusing to surrender. This in no way diminishes their martyrdom but the clarification is useful, particularly since His Holiness Pope Francis has called for more Catholic-Muslim dialogue. And it is Pope Francis who washed the feet of a young Muslim woman, among others, at a juvenile detention center in Rome in one his first acts as Pope. It was the first time this pontifical re-enactment of Christ’s washing the feet of the disciples involved not just an individual who was not a Roman Catholic, but specifically was a Muslim.
To greet or not to greet
Earlier this month the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s equivalent of a mufti (the highest ranking religious scholar in any given city or town authorized to issue a fatwa or opinion) was quoted in the press saying that Muslims should not wish their Coptic friends a “happy Easter.” Whereas it was reportedly all right, according to the MB’s mufti, to wish Christians a merry Christmas, since Muslims honor Christ’s birth, but they do not believe in the main events of Easter Holy Week – the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Now aside from a very dubious theological analogy – for orthodox Christians, Jesus at the time of birth is already God Incarnate and Muslims do not share that belief, so in that sense Easter is no different than Christmas – this fatwa, if that is what it is, was absurd.
To wish someone well when they celebrate their religious holiday does not mean the well wisher embraces the doctrines of that religion .This was implied in the response by the actual Mufti, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, to the MB’s Mufti. Or is the MB’s Mufti suggesting that when Christians accept my invitation to take the iftaar meal during Ramadan, or when they simply wish me “Ramadan kareem” they are embracing the Muslim belief in the Prophethood of Muhammed?
The problem with blasphemy laws
Meanwhile, or at least as of late last week, a court in Upper Egypt renewed the detention of a Christian school teacher for an additional 15 days to investigate the charge of insulting Islam, in response to complaints filed by the parents of three students. According to the report, carried in the Daily News Egypt which in turn quoted a spokesman for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the school’s administration as well as ten other students have confirmed that there is no truth to these allegations. Aside from the issue of blasphemy laws, or equivalent constitutional provisions, it is somewhat melancholic ,to put it most politely, that imprisonment precedes investigation in a case like this. It is, after all, not the case of someone who has committed a criminal act – a robbery, a murder – but someone who is the subject of an allegation of a crime.
According to Egyptian law, an insult to any of the three Abrahamic religions (not just Islam) is a crime – but over the past year or so the only person I know to be imprisoned, or even brought up, on charges of insulting Christianity is a Salafist sheikh who was witnessed by hundreds of people and videotaped burning a copy of the Bible during a demonstration at the U.S. Embassy protesting a film insulting the Prophet. Whereas still another Coptic school teacher in Upper Egypt was arrested last year for “contempt of religion” (specifically Islam) on the basis of an allegation made by the parents of one student, the teacher was released when it was established that the student was not in class the day the alleged incident took place. Last September a blogger was sentenced to six years in jail for posting offensive images of the Prophet on Facebook. What is curious about these three arrests is two of the three are of Copts, who constitute at most ten percent of the population. And the rule of thumb, at least in the West (and I have no reason to doubt the same is true in Egypt), is that members of a minority religious community, precisely because they are a minority, are much more likely to be tactful or refrain completely from making negative comments about the majority religion in public. Much more so than the members of the majority community, who would feel less reluctant to make insulting remarks about a religious minority.
Nothing is sacred
Yet, I can understand why to a believer there is something profoundly indecent when someone blasphemes against God or insults a religion. But in the West, and in particular Western Europe where church attendance averages about 5 to 8 percent of the population, nothing is sacred anymore except the belief that nothing is sacred. And that is why it is so easy for Western media to denounce blasphemy laws.
Consider the widespread sympathy in Western media for the girl group “Pussy Riot” who were described as arrested for “singing” or “praying” in a Russian Orthodox church for God to punish Putin. But it was clear from the video tape, that the singing was obscene, that their very name, in Anglo-American slang is obscene, and that when they dropped to their knees in the church they were facing the congregants, not the altar; their “prayers” were a parody not piety, and in the eyes of those sitting in the church to mediate or really pray, the performance was sacrilegious. There was major coverage of demonstrations by hundreds of Russian liberals in Moscow denouncing the arrest and sentencing. Now, by and large the Russian people are probably the most religious of all Europeans, but very little media attention was given to polls taken which established that the majority of Russians thought the girls deserved to be arrested. Even Salman Rushdie, author of “The Satanic Verses” and thus the object of Ayatollah Khomeini’s “death fatwa,” noted quite accurately that one has to be a believer in order to recognize blasphemy.
But with the exception of something visible – concrete evidence – like a posting on Facebook, or dancing to obscene lyrics before an altar – blasphemy or insulting religion is usually one person’s claim about another person’s speech and we know the sorry record of the blasphemy law in Pakistan, where this sort of legislation has provided an opportunities for bigots to persecute members of a religious minority.
Not too long ago a documentary film about the Jews of Egypt, directed by an Egyptian (and I presume, on the basis of his name, a Muslim), was briefly banned. Then the ban was lifted for one performance. Only a month or so before this incident remarks President Mursi had made several years ago about Jews in general (and not just Israelis ) and recorded on a video, were dug up and widely quoted in the global media. The President insisted at the time that these remarks were taken out of context. So a daring but wise move by the President would have been to have shown up at the screening. Or at least have sent a representative. He did not.
What the President did do, was criticize France for sending troops to Mali to stop salafist-jihadist rebel groups from advancing on the Mali capital. The troops were requested by the Mali government – which for better or worse – is internationally recognized as the legitimate government of Mali.
These salafist-jihadist forces (affiliated or sympathetic to al-Qaeda) had already occupied Mali’s historic city of Timbuktu and proceeded to destroy several centuries-old historic shrines of Sufi Saints. Aside from the fact that traditional Islam in Mali is heavily perfumed by Sufism, these buildings were a major part of Mali’s world-honored architectural heritage. The salafist-jihadists also managed to set on fire a library with a major collection of old Arab manuscripts (no doubt many of which were Sufi devotional works) before retreating. The desecrated shrines and burnt manuscripts are the artifacts of the time when Timbuktu was a great center of a vibrant Islamic culture. France did not intervene in Mali to save great Islamic architecture and rare Arabic manuscripts. Nor do I believe that the Egyptian government condemned the intervention out of sympathy with the brutal and ignorant salafist-jihadists of Mali. But what remains as a tragic fact is that Morocco is the only Arab country, to my knowledge, to have publically condemned the scandalous vandalism of the salifist-jihadists.
Abdallah Schleifer is Professor Emeritus of Journalism at the American University in Cairo, where he founded and served as first director of the Kamal Adham Center for Television Journalism. He also founded and served as Senior Editor of the journal Transnational Broadcasting Studies, now known as Arab Media Society. Before joining the AUC faculty Schleifer served for nine years as NBC News Cairo bureau chief and Middle East producer- reporter; as Middle East corrrespondent for Jeune Afrique based in Beirut and as a special correspndent for the New York Times based in Amman. After retiring from teaching at AUC Schleifer served for little more than a year as Al Arabiya’s Washington D.C. bureau chief. He is associated with the Middle East Institute in Washington D.C. as an Adjunct Scholar. He was executive producer of the award winning documentary “Control Room” and the 100 episode Reality- TV documentary “Sleepless in Gaza…and Jerusalem.”
For all the extraordinary things our mothers do for us, their selfless natures and the ways they act in the best interest of others are among their most admirable qualities.
Their countless sacrifices can often go unnoticed, however, since most of the good work happens behind the scenes, whether at home or when working to change the world.
So this Mother’s Day, we celebrate just a few of the Canadian moms who also inspire through their impressive work for the charitable and philanthropic causes they’re passionate about. By shining the spotlight on critical issues, they’re creating a better world not only for their children, but all children. Ladies, we salute you.
Jean immigrated to Canada from Port au Prince, Haiti, in 1968 as a young child to flee the dictatorial regime of the Duvalier family, and became the first female of Caribbean origin to become Governor General and Head of State from 2005 to 2010. Now 55, the mother of three was heavily involved in charity work for victims of domestic violence, spending 10 years in Quebec shelters for women. In addition, her involvement in the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, which aims to empower youth to use art and creativity to promote social change, led to her being appointed as UNESCO’s Special Envoy for Haiti to protect its culture and heritage and reforming its education system.
Elisapee Sheutiapik first set out on her national project to have cities across Canada name a city street “Angel Street” when her sister, Mary Ann, was killed in a case of domestic violence. The mother of one and former mayor of Iqaluit, Nunavut, which has the highest rate of domestic violence per capita in Canada, successfully renamed a street in Fredericton and the street in the town that holds the only women’s shelter in Nunavut. The “Angel Street Domestic Violence Education Project” which aims to take “a public stand against violence in Aboriginal communities” is ongoing.
The Iranian-born Canadian, who gave birth to a baby boy in April with husband and Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay, has been a strong advocate against human rights abuses around the world involving children and women, particularly in her native Iran and the Middle East. The former Miss World Canada and Miss World first runner-up co-founded and is the current president of the Stop Child Executions organization, which seeks to stop the executions of minors across the world. She has also helped victims after natural disasters such as the tsunamis in Sri Lanka, as well as raising funds for earthquake victims in Sri Lanka.
Monique Leroux first caught the attention of the financial world when she became the first woman to head Desjardins Group (now Mouvement des caisses Desjardins) as president and chief executive officer in 2008, but the mother of one puts a strong emphasis on supporting young people and encouraging equality for women in the workplace. As president of Fondation Desjardins, which offers scholarship programs and other access to learning opportunities, the organization handed out 3,500 scholars totalling $2.7 million in 2010. She has also launched scholarship programs to support women interested in finance, and is the president of the 2013 Canada Summer Games, to be held in Sherbrooke, QC.
Known by many Winnipeggers as “the African Library Lady,” Kathy Knowles is the founder of the Osu Children’s Library Fund, which gives many Ghanaians access to books, literacy programs and outreach activities. The 57 year-old mother of four first moved to Ghana in 1989 after her husband took a job there, and has since taught communities in Tanzania, Zimbabwe and other African nations on how to start and manage libraries in their community. She calls Ghana “her second home,” and has worked with more than 200 libraries across the continent.
More: check out these gifts for Mom that give back
Chocolates are a staple for many holidays — Mother’s Day included. But instead of sticking to typical chocolates, let your mom indulge in a box of a href=”http://www.godiva.com/godiva-and-feed/godiva-and-feed,default,sc.html” target=”_blank”Godiva chocolates with a FEED 10 tote bag./a Each gift combo provides 10 school meals to children in cocoa-producing regions in conjunction with FEED the United Nations World Food Programme. How sweet.
emSpring Ballotin and FEED Bag, $70./em
Your mom, like all moms, is probably a master multitasker. To that end, a href=”http://shop.autismspeaks.org/dee_ocleppo_3_in_1_handbags_s/1837.htm” target=”_blank”Dee Ocleppo’s 2-in-1 and 3-in-1 handbags/a are the perfect option for a woman who leads a busy lifestyle. All proceeds from each bag goes to autism science and advocacy organization Autism Speaks.
emPrices start at $19./em
The Hand Cream
Though often understated, mothers could not do what they do without being comfortable in their own skins. To keep moms feeling beautiful, a href=”http://www.lush.ca/on/demandware.store/Sites-LushCA-Site/en_CA/Charities-Support” target=”_blank”LUSH’s Charity Pot hand and body lotion, infused with fair trade cocoa butter, ylang ylang oil and almond oil,/a donates 100 per cent of its proceeds to grassroots organizations committed to environmental conservation, animal welfare and human rights.
emLUSH’s Charity Pot, $23, available at LUSH stores across Canada/em
Everyone loves their mom’s food and what better way to satiate her love of cooking (and your palate) by giving her a copy of a href=”http://www.etsy.com/listing/115680361/the-foodie-collective-book-all-proceeds?ref=sr_gallery_11ga_search_query=proceeds+to+charityga_view_type=galleryga_ship_to=ZZga_ref=auto5ga_search_type=all” target=”_blank”The Food Collective./a All funds from this go to Montreal-based a href=”http://santropolroulant.org/site/” target=”_blank”Santropol Roulant/a an organization that brings together different food cultures to “break social and economic isolation.”
emThe Foodie Collective Book, $25 US, available on Etsy.com/em
For the mothers who like to keep things close to their hearts and well, smell good, check out a href=”http://www.the7virtues.com/usa.index.html” target=”_blank”The 7 Virtues perfume collection./a The Canadian company works to ethically source essentials oils with legal suppliers in regions like Afghanistan, Iran, Israel and Haiti to encourage fair trade in those areas. Plus, the fragrances are vegan-friendly, pthalate and paraben-free, not tested on animals, and made in Canada. Mom would be so proud.
emVetiver of Haiti, $70, available at a href=”http://www.the7virtues.com/online_shop_canada.html” target=”_hplink”www.the7virtues.com/a. and in stores at a href=”http://www.thebay.com/” target=”_hplink”The Bay/a/em
Whether or not your mom allowed you to have pets in the house, she would always root for the underdog. At hoorayfortheunderdog.com, customers a href=”http://www.hoorayfortheunderdog.com” target=”_blank”can send gift or greeting cards with pictures of dogs and cats/a up for adoption at local shelters and rescue organizations. Ten per cent of proceeds goes to shelters and animal welfare programs in the U.S.
emPrices start at $3.50/em
There’s supposedly never a bad time to invest in an Apple product, so why not Mother’s Day? These (PRODUCT) RED iPod cases and devices donates a percentage of proceeds to the a href=”http://www.apple.com/ca/product-red/” target=”_blank”Global Fund to combat AIDS in Africa./a
emPrices start at $50/em
Finding a gift might be classified as a a href=”http://www.metowe.com/products/first-world-problems/” target=”_blank”"first world problem,”/a but this Mother’s Day, make light heart of this meme by giving her a book that pokes fun at these so-called problems. For every purchase of emFirst World Problems/em, Me to We sends 500 litres of water to families overseas.
emPrices start at $4./em
Mothers deserve to be rewarded for all their hard work, and that means moms around the world too. a href=”http://www.globalgoodspartners.org/template/index.cfm” target=”_blank”GlobalGoodsPartners.org sells a variety of ethically sourced and fairly traded goods, including self-produced jewelry, accessories and scarves,/a made by artisan groups in close to 20 countries.
emPrices start at under $10/em
Moms are the heart of any family, so what if you could help a mom support her family with just one purchase? a href=”http://www.oxfamunwrapped.ca/” target=”_blank”Oxfam lets customers buy gifts of beehives, chickens and even safe water/a for families in developing nations.
emPrices start at $25/em
Flowers don’t last, but what they symbolize can last an eternity. From carnations to forget-me-nots, make those feelings heartfelt and socially conscious by a href=”http://www.sierraeco.com/find-eco-flowers/retail/?country=CA” target=”_hplink”ordering Eco Flowers/a, which are independently audited to meet social and environmental standards to uphold fair working conditions, remaining eco-friendly, and ensuring that all farms remain socially responsible.
Also on HuffPost:
Heeding calls from their rabbis, religious teenage girls turned up in large numbers to protest the group’s insistence on praying at the wall in religious garb traditionally worn by men. The girls crammed the women’s section directly in front of the wall by 6:30 a.m., forcing the liberal women to conduct their prayer service farther back on the plaza. There, hundreds of police officers locked arms in cordons to hold back throngs of black-hatted Orthodox men who whistled, catcalled, and threw water, candy and a few plastic chairs.
The fight over how women pray at one of Judaism’s holiest sites is a singular fault line among many. Friday’s mass demonstration at the wall was widely seen as part of the intensifying culture war that poses a threat, if internal, to Israel’s social cohesion.
“We are looking at a process in which the public disdain with the way religion and state matters have occurred in Israel has reached a peak,” said Rabbi Uri Regev, the founder of Hiddush, a group that advocates for religious freedom and equality.
But Rabbi Israel Eichler, an ultra-Orthodox member of Parliament, warned that “if the state of Israel fights” the ultra-Orthodox, in Hebrew called Haredim, “it may win, but it will be erased from the face of the Earth.”
“There were thousands of seminary girls there today,” he said. “Each one of them will have 10 children. That is our victory.”
The showdown on Friday came two days after Israel’s attorney general ordered government ministries to end gender segregation in buses, cemeteries, health clinics and radio airwaves, and as Parliament is drafting sweeping legislation to integrate the swelling ultra-Orthodox minority into the army and work force, while cutting back the subsidies their large families rely on. Following decades in which ultra-Orthodox politicians provided critical swing votes in exchange for control over religious institutions, they were shut out of the governing coalition that formed this spring and have become an increasingly shrill part of the opposition.
Most Israelis care far less about the rules at the kotel, or Western Wall, a remnant of the retaining wall that surrounded the ancient Temple, than the ultra-Orthodox control of marriage, conversion and other matters that affect daily life. But a spate of arrests last fall of women wearing prayer shawls at the wall sparked an outcry from Jews abroad. That prompted Israel’s government to develop a long-term plan that would provide a new space where men and women can pray together and as they wish.
Buoyed by the recent court ruling allowing them to use prayer garments traditionally reserved for men, the women’s group, called Women of the Wall, has vowed to continue the monthly services it has held for a quarter century.
Friday was the first time ultra-Orthodox girls and women showed up in force to block them.
“I’m here so they won’t be,” said one of the teenagers, who like a dozen others interviewed spoke on the condition that her name not be published. “It’s forbidden for them to be here. It’s allowed by the court, but it’s forbidden by God. If I’m here, there won’t be room for them.”
The girls, who woke before dawn and poured onto buses from schools across Jerusalem as well as the ultrareligious suburbs of Beit Shemesh and Beitar Illit, said they had come because their leaders ordered them to.
Among the liberal women, a smaller-than-usual group of perhaps 100 made it to the Women of the Wall prayer circle, where much of the spirited chanting was drowned out by the boisterous men. Three of the men were arrested and two others detained for questioning.” Every time, there’s another stumbling block,” said Haviva Ner David, a rabbi and mother of seven who has been praying with Women of the Wall for two decades. “There are more non-Orthodox Jews than there are Haredi Jews in Israel, but they’re able to gather more troops.”
As the crowds dispersed, Yossi Parienti, commander of Jerusalem’s police force, said it was “painful and a pity to see the Western Wall become a field of battle instead of a holy place of prayer.”
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the head of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation — which controls the site — said, “We must find a solution that is acceptable to all, or to the majority, so that the Western Wall does not look as it did today.”
The heightened attention to the wall comes after more than two years of friction with the ultra-Orthodox over gender in the public sphere. Women have been barred from speaking at conferences, and an 8-year-old girl was spit on for dress that her ultra-Orthodox neighbors considered immodest. Vandals routinely black out women’s faces on advertising billboards.
Menachem Friedman, a sociology professor at Bar Ilan University who has studied the Haredi society, said that while a universal military draft and cut in subsidies are more substantive issues, “gender is the most vulnerable.”
“The most threatening thing for the Haredi society is the mixture,” Professor Friedman said. “Sex is always something we can’t control — we have to defend against it, we have to separate, to make it very clear separation between men and women. Why? Because sex is really penetrating inside everyone, even the most sacred man is not protected. That is the main idea of ultra-Orthodoxy.”
Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, a law professor and director of the Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women at Bar Ilan University, said: “What’s at stake here is the very characteristic of the state of Israel. Are we part of the Western world or are we part of the fundamentalist world?”
Irit Pazner Garshowitz contributed reporting.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: May 10, 2013
An earlier version of this article said incorrectly that Devorah Leff was lifted on a chair to celebrate her recent bat mitzvah. She was lifted on a woman’s shoulders.