April 23, 2013
Anat Hoffman: “Women’s prayer is not a disturbance of the peace… It promotes peace, unity and community for the Jewish people
On April 24, 2013 Women of the Wall will find themselves back in court, as police have appealed the recent Magistrates Court decision regarding the arrest of 5 women at the Western Wall. The women were arrested on April 11, 2013 at Women of the Wall’s monthly Rosh Hodesh prayer service and accused of disturbing the public order by wearing prayer shawls (tallitot) and praying out loud.
In the appeal, police continue to insist that the women were provoking disorder, despite the decision by Judge Sharon Larry-Bavly in which she states that she finds “that there is no basis for the arrest” and that “it was not Women of the Wall who initiated the provocation.” Judge Larry-Bavly ordered the women to be released immediately with no conditions; however, in their appeal Israel Police request a restraining order for the next three months’ Rosh Hodesh prayers at the Kotel, or alternatively, to have the women relegated to Robinson’s Arch for the entire prayer service.
The threat of a restraining order from the Western Wall (Kotel) is not new to the group, but the threat of exile to Robinsons’s Arch is. It is a reminder that until a permanent solution has been created providing free prayer for women at the Kotel, Rabbi Rabinowitz, Chair of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation and appointed authority over the Kotel would have police arrest and banish women from the Kotel. Women of the Wall remains opposed to the exile of women’s prayer to Robinson’s Arch. The law must be changed so that women will be allowed to pray out loud with tallitot, tefillin and Torah at the Kotel.
Anat Hoffman, Women of the Wall Chair, said, “Women’s prayer is not a disturbance of the peace, quite the opposite. Women’s prayer promotes peace, unity, community and spirit for the the Jewish people. How could it be a criminal, punishable offense?”
Women of the Wall maintains that since it has been ruled that there is no concern for the public order and there was no cause for arrest, there are also no grounds for a restraining order. Lesley Sachs, Director of Women of the Wall, adds, “The arrests of women for praying is a problem that the Knesset must confront immediately and they must create legislation to prevent this in the future.”
For nearly twenty-five years Women of the Wall has continued to fight for religious freedom and women’s rights at the Western Wall. As Women of the Wall, our central mission is to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.