April 3, 2016
After 27 years, over 50 arrests, multiple government committees and Supreme Court petitions, three years and hundreds of hours spent in negotiations with the Israeli government, Women of the Wall continues to pray in the women’s section of the Western Wall. Women of the Wall remains steadfast in the struggle for access to Torah scrolls at the Kotel.
So much has changed and yet, on the ground, very little change can actually be felt. Though women are not currently being arrested for praying with prayer shawls, women’s prayers groups are still harassed by onlookers and security, and worst of all, women are still denied access to Torah scrolls. The promise of equality seems close but when a bat mitzvah girl is cursed at while she reads from the Torah, the reality of it feels very far away. When members of Knesset slander Jewish women and non-Orthodox Jews in the media and incite hatred and violence against them, without any real penalty, it puts a spoke in the wheels of the progress.
Each day it seems as if there are changes unfolding to the blueprint of the plan for a third, pluralistic prayer section at the Kotel.
The government approved the implementation of the plan on January 31, 2016 but the first deadlines towards implementation have already come and gone.
In recent days we have heard Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterate his commitment to the agreement passed by the government. Yet he has also appointed a representative to head a new committee “to present – within 60 days – a recommendation on the steps necessary to resolve the difficulties, according to the solution that has been proposed.” We support the Prime Minister’s efforts to push the agreement into implementation in the face of much opposition. However, altering this agreement – in any way – will not be acceptable to Women of the Wall. This agreement resulted from great effort and sacrifice and represents hope for women’s equality and empowerment in Israel. Downgrading these minimal requirements for equality at the Western Wall sends the wrong message to women and girls.
In November 2013 when Women of the Wall announced the decision to join negotiations with the government for a dignified and fair solution for free prayer at the Western Wall, WOW said, “Pending the completion of the establishment of the new section, Women of the Wall will hold the Rosh Hodesh service in the women’s section.” On that day and all the way through today, Women of the Wall have continued to pray in the women’s section with the top priority- gaining access to Torah scrolls for women there. Over the past year we have smuggled Torah scrolls into the Western Wall seven times and we will continue to do so, demanding women’s full access to religious expression at the holiest site for Jews.
On Hol Hamoed Passover, Sunday, April 24, 2016 at 8:45 AM, Women of the Wall will gather for a special prayer service, including the first-ever women’s Priestly Blessing (Birkat Kohanot). We will dedicate this prayer on Passover – in Hebrew known also as the Festival of Freedom – to security, grace and peace- the very message and essence of the blessing. Women of the Wall will invite women who trace their lineage to the Priestly Class- and all women all over Israel- to bless and be blessed at the Western Wall, reclaiming the Priestly Blessing and the Western Wall as a spiritual and holy space for all Jewish women.