May 7, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: DRAMA AT THE KOTEL
Women of the Wall at last read from a Torah Scroll offered for Public Use at the Week of Israel’s Independence Day, despite physical violence from ultra-Orthodox bullies and incitement from state-paid Rabbi of the Western Wall
WOW celebrate freedom and independence this week – despite government regulations they were able to read from one of the Torah scrolls that are offered for public use. This is the first time WoW were able to stand up and be counted as equal members of the public entitled to read from the Torah.
For 26 years, Women of the Wall are fighting for freedom of religion at the Western Wall. This includes the right to read from a Torah at the Western Wall and to celebrate Bat Mitzvahs. The April 2013 Sobel court ruling formally acknowledged women’s right to pray according to their belief at the Western Wall, claiming that this does not violate “local custom”.
Despite the ruling, regulations set by Rabbi Rabinowitz deny women the right to bring a Torah scroll to read from at the Western Wall. These regulations, were brought up first as having the innocent goal of preventing theft of Torah scrolls from the wall (no such has ever occurred there but all the same, theft prevention was the handy excuse). The real reason for the regulation is “to stop people from reading Torah in a way that is not according to local custom” hence – Women of the Wall And indeed, while there are over 100 Torah scrolls for public use at the Western Wall, they are all at the men’s section of the prayer plaza and women are denied access to them all.
Despite the regulations, Women of the Wall insist to fulfill their right to read from a Torah at the Kotel. This October, a historical moment was achieved as the first Bat Mitzvah was completed with a Torah reading, from a miniature Torah scroll brought in through security. Today, Women of the Wall again read from the Torah, by accessing one of the Torah scrolls from the men’s section with the carefully planned help of male supporters. Despite violence from ultra-orthodox men who physically attacked the men, broke through the mechitzah and went into the women’s section in attempt to take the Torah away from the praying women, women of the wall carried out a full and deeply moving service.
Anat Hoffman, Women of the Wall chair, stated that she will not compromise on what is custom for women around the world – the basic right of reading from the Torah as a part of the prayer: “This is the first time that Women of the Wall can stand up and be counted as a part of the public. Nothing you could say could tear me away from my Torah, nothing you could do, ‘cause I’m stuck like glue to My Torah.”
The August 2010 regulation is a stain on Israeli law and entire legal system. Women of the Wall, with support of Jewish communities worldwide, act to abolish the regulation and allow women to pray with a Torah scroll at the Western Wall.
Please find attached pictures from this morning’s prayer photographed by Miriam Alster along with more details about the 2013 Sobel Court Ruling and our new campaign. Women of the Wall will celebrate Rosh Hodesh Sivan on May 19th.
For 26 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.