June 9, 2013
Women of the Wall held their monthly prayer service at the Western Wall this morning, under heavy police protection after the previous month of violent protest, threatening graffiti and letters. Women of the Wall were led behind and under the Mugrabi bridge, to enter a secured, sectioned off area of the women’s side of the Wall. A record over 300 women prayed in a fenced off area beside them, 20 ultra-Orthodox women protested with signs, yelling and gawking at the pluralist prayer. Member of Knesset Michal Rozin, Meretz, joined the women’s prayer for the 4th month, to see that the rights of women in this very important, public holy space were upheld.
Though police expected over 10,000 ultra-Orthodox protesters, the Rabbis retracted their call to protest in a mass prayer and asked that all of the men return to their seminary studies. A small group of protesters remained, yelling, throwing eggs and harassing the 100 men who came to support Women of the Wall. One young man, age 16, who joined Women of the Wall in support and to pray at the Kotel was attacked by ultra-Orthodox men when he attempted to return a prayer book. Police intervened immediately, saving him from the mob.
Women of the Wall’s prayer was peaceful and beautiful, despite protest and the fact that the women are still being refused access to Torah Scrolls. A regulation by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Chairman of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, forbids women from bringing a Torah Scroll into the plaza of the holy site whereas men can access any of the hundreds of scrolls that remain there on a permanent basis. Women of the Wall will challenge this regulation, as it conflicts with the district court decision guaranteeing women’s religious freedoms at the Kotel from May 2013. Anat Hoffman, Women of the Wall Chair, said, “The District Court decision of Judge Sobell, one of the most important modern court decisions, defended us today. It was present with us, defending our rights and the future rights of our daughters.”
Hoffman continued, “Today, women came from all over Israel to join our prayer and the vast majority of the women with us were Israeli. This month when we finished our prayer service with Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem (literal translation: The Hope) it was a truly emotionally moving moment. It was a moment when we recognized that we are making history here. We all knew that one day we will tell our granddaughters about the days when we had to struggle to liberate the Kotel”
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.