JERUSALEM – Is it possible to cry and smile at the same time? When I prayed at the Western Wall in Jerusalem with the Women of the Wall, I did both.
These are the brave women who have been arrested for “carrying the Torah with intent to read” at the Wall, only a quarter of which is open to women. This was one of many extraordinary experiences I had as part of a Women’s Leadership Mission to Israel organized by the J Street Education Fund and the Women Donors Network. The Mission, from Feb. 18 to 26, included 20 women in all – 13 women leaders, six congresswomen – one each from New York, Maryland, Wisconsin and Texas and two from California –and me, co-chair of J Street Rhode Island.
The trip was designed to deepen our understanding of the complexities of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and to advance women’s empowerment in conflict resolution both in the Mideast and here at home. We were exposed to a wide range of opinions and experiences. Briefings at the Knesset by current government leaders and members of different political parties offered the Israeli viewpoint, and a meeting with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Ramallah provided the Palestinian perspective. Sadly, neither side saw an urgent need for peace negotiations.