Israel, Justice, Mishegas, Religion, Sex & Gender

Woman Attacked For Having Tefillin Imprints On Her Arm

The Women of the Wall just sent out the following memo:

MAY 13th — Noa Raz, a Conservative Jew in her early thirties who lives and works in Tel Aviv, was physically assaulted early Tuesday morning by an ultra-Orthodox man at the Central Bus Station in Be’er Sheva for having the imprints of tefillin (phylacteries) lines visible on her arms.
She had woken up several hours earlier to pray and wrap tefillin, as is part of her daily routine. “I’m very pale, so the tefillin lines are still visible for hours afterward,” she said. While she was waiting for the bus to arrive, an ultra-Orthodox man in his forties stood next to her and stared at the lines on her arms. He asked her twice if the imprints were from tefillin. She ignored him at first, then admitted they were. At that point he grabbed her hand and began to kick and strangle her while screaming “women are an abomination.” She struggled, then broke free and ran to the bus which had just pulled into the station.
There were several bystanders present, though Noa Raz stated that the assault happened so quickly that none had time to react.
Raz arrived in Tel Aviv and sent out a message about the assault on Twitter. Dozens of people responded urged her to go to police to report what had happened. Raz contacted the police the following day, fearing that a similar incident would happen to another woman.

The Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) has been working with the Be’er Sheva Police and has insisted they treat Raz’s assault as the hate crime that it is. Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of IRAC, stated that the assault on Noa Raz for wrapping tefillin “should not be seen as an isolated incident, but as taking place within an atmosphere of growing violence toward and intimidation of women who seek to pray freely and equally. Too often these acts of violence are tolerated. The fact that this man thought it acceptable to attack a woman for performing a religious act in private is an example of the escalation of violence targeted against women and against religious pluralists in Israel. We at IRAC are pushing the Israeli police to take this investigation seriously.”.

34 thoughts on “Woman Attacked For Having Tefillin Imprints On Her Arm

  1. What happened to Noa is a terrible thing. I find it frustrating that today Noa is a Masorti/Conservative hero, yet because she is a lesbian the movement’s only rabbinical school would never accept her. She’s starting HUC rabbinical school in the fall.

    1. And to those who are going to claim that she was “asking for it” because (you believe) women wearing tefillin is a violation of halachah, would you have the same reaction if the attacker had instead smelled shrimp on her breath?

  2. Well, excelt that women wearing tefillin aren’t violating halacha. At beworst the guy has no idea over whether she said a blessing or not…
    But, then we all know pretty much that none of this really has anything to do with halacha. And never did.

  3. I cant believe he touched her. Whatupwithdat? And second to Yosef, Noa is someone who was beat up physically by an “ultra-orthodox” man, and is perpetually beat up psychologically by her own Masorti community.

  4. I find it frustrating that today Noa is a Masorti/Conservative hero, yet because she is a lesbian the movement’s only rabbinical school would never accept her.
    How do these schools know whether or not somebody is a lesbian?

  5. The things that he shouted are not all that different from the things that are shouted at the Women of the Wall every Rosh Chodesh by dozens and dozens of Charedim at the kotel. Who knows what would happen if there wasn’t heavy armed police protection.
    There is an ever-growning zealotry in the Charedi world in Israel that condones this sort of behavior. Rav Ovadia Yosef said a couple of months ago that women who wear tefillin are “stupid” and “deviants” who “must be condemned and warned of,” and that, if you see a woman wearing tefillin you should smack her twice. “אישה שתניח תפילין ניתן לה שתי סטירות נעיף אותה”.

  6. Of course this is disgusting, but the question is how long will the charedi communities allow these things to go on? Locking this guy up will perhaps save other women (for a limited time) from him, but not from the system that perpetuates violence like this. What has to happen before a lasting change away from behavior like this can take place?

  7. @Jonathan1 In Noa’s case, she’s out. The Masorti movement is LGBTQ-friendly, senior management, including its director of development, are gay. Regional coordinators of NOAM, its youth movement, are openly gay. Noa had no reason to hide her sexual identity as a Masorti woman. Its Schechter Rabbinical Seminary that rejects her.

  8. @Yoseph. Ok. I was just curious to the process. It’s not like it ever even occurs to me to ask people–in day-to-day encounters–whether or not they happen to be gay.

    1. These things come up in day-to-day encounters. Any time I mention my wife, I’m flaunting my heterosexuality (or that’s how I would be perceived if society applied the same standards to all sexual orientations).

  9. @BZ Actually, your mentioning your wife only tells me that you’re not gay. You could identify as queer or bisexual for all I know.

    1. And actually, lots of gay people are in opposite-sex marriages (though here the equivalence starts to break down, since I doubt the opposite is so common).

  10. They should issue a public call for the bystanders at that event to come forward and help identify the perpetrator.
    Please provide a source to comments by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef which you quoted.
    The first comment you made is sick. Who have you heard justifying such unacceptable violence on the basis of halacha? This isn’t even a matter of halacha. I don’t mean on Jewschool, I mean in general. Please name the Rabbis responsible who have issued such opinion, with links if possible.

  11. Who have you heard justifying such unacceptable violence on the basis of halacha?
    The people who throw chairs at women davening at the Kotel, or the police who detain them for the same?

  12. Scary. I’ve had many conversations with strangers who have interrogated me about my tefillin, which I carry to and from yeshiva in Jerusalem; the male datim so far have ranged from bemused to thoughtful and one “impressed,” and the female ones have been almost universally “How nice but um no” (they are not trained as well to have a deep textual conversation in general). But maybe it’s only a matter of time before a violent or semi-violent encounter…

  13. I kinda want to start a tefillin-wearing vigilante thug squad to defend women against this kind of crap.

  14. I heard that to let a woman wear tefillin is yehareg v’al ya’vor, but that just means “no way” should you look at her.
    Negia derekh hiba (loving touch) is the prohibition. A shomer negi’a person can smack someone of the opposite sex, or in this case strangle, without violation of that law.. they just can’t hug or get physical pleasure from it… lest it lead to mixed dancing….

  15. How is that so many people can’t see that God is both male and female? I think the Kabbalah even says this. God is Nature, God is the Universe, God is Everything. If we assume that humans are the highest expression of God, then we must also assume that harming another human unnecessarily is blasphemy. Women are necessary for life. Women have a right to be as spiritual as men. Why do so many religions embrace the idea that it is holy to oppress an entire group of people?

  16. How do these schools know whether or not somebody is a lesbian?
    Noa works for a LGBTQI organization.
    There are no incoming Conservative rabbinical students to the Schechter Rabbinical School. They are unable to find willing applicants.
    There are four openly identified Gay Masorti Israelis entering other institutions.
    The famous claim of Rabbi Golinkin that no Gays in Israel have shown an interest in the Rabbinate proves silly.
    Gay Rabbis belong at Schechter like an orange belongs on the Seder Plate.
    How do American funders keep giving to a Conservative Rabbinical School that has a history of homophobia? Because most just don’t know.

  17. I like Ovadia Yosef’s statement. I’ll quote it when my grandchildren ask me why there’s no longer a Jewish state. “Sinat Hinam,” I’ll say. “Listen to the sad words of the state’s leading rabbi.”

  18. @ME-
    is that a fact that there are no incoming rabbinical students to schechter? I hope that wakes people up.

  19. If Ovadia Yosef is supposed the Gadol Hador, klal yisrael is pretty fucked.
    Shame on any so called “charedi” who would castigate a woman for wearing tefillin, let alone someone who hit someone for it.

  20. @ME
    Don’t you think Schechter, that is, the “one” in charge, wants to close its doors as a rabbinical school, in order to focus on its true face: Masters Program of Jewish Studies, the real money maker?

  21. @Justin and @Adam H
    I have come to the conclusion that student’s money, from overseas students spending the year in Israel, that is used to support a policy that violates the ethical sensibilities of Halacha as many of us understand it must come to an end.
    Schechter’s Rabbinical School is on the verge of collapse. It is the funding from abroad that allows it to keep its doors open (even though it loses it real purpose if it is not producing Israeli rabbis).
    The one in charge wants the doors open but would rather close the doors than give in to sin (as he would see it).
    Fine. Then close the doors. But keeping them open with money coming from those who know what is the right thing and yet who still send the money breaks my heart.

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