August 7, 2013
Women of the Wall gathered for their monthly prayer this morning, surrounded by police, onlookers and protesters. The women’s prayer group and male supporters, 300 in all, were corralled into a small pen in the Western Wall Plaza, 150 meters from the Kotel. This, despite requests of Women of the Wall and MK Aliza Lavie, chair of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women (Lavie in a letter to Minister of Internal Security Aharonowitz), to allow women to pray freely, according to their tradition at the holy site.
This month and last, the men’s prayer section was surrounded by loudspeakers, facing the Western Wall Plaza. This month, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, appointed administrator of the Western Wall and holy places, led prayers and addressed worshipers over this loudspeaker while the women attempted to pray together. The sound system is for public use, and yet never in 25 years has it been used on Rosh Hodesh, until last month. Rabinowitz chose to use his status to take a biased and discriminatory stance: to drown out women’s prayer in favor of his own.
Women of the Wall leaders stood vigil with their Torah scroll, outside of the Kotel plaza, as the enforcement of the ordinance prohibiting entrance with private Torah scrolls lends to the exclusion of women’s prayer in the public sphere.
More than ten women blew shofar together at the Kotel, as is traditional in the Jewish month of Elul preceding the high holy days. The sounding of the ram’s horn symbolizes Women of the Wall’s perseverance and determination to see justice for women at the Western Wall, in Israel and around the World.
Anat Hoffman, Women of the Wall chair, said, “We will not forget that the Torah is exiled from the Western Wall, due to the discriminatory misuse of power by Rabbi Rabinowitz. Israel is the only democracy in the world that by law prohibits women from reading Torah. Unfortunately, the only people who felt at home today at the Kotel were the ultra-Orthodox worshippers and the police and Rabinowitz collaborated towards this end.”
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.