The following was sent by Anat Hoffman, President of Women of the Wall (WOW) and Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (IRAC).
I ask you to read her report of the scene at the Kotel (Western Wall in Jerusalem) this past week and then register your opinion with Minister Naftali Bennet of Bayit Yehudi, who is trying to reverse the gains that has resulted in an historic agreement between WOW and the Chief Rabbi of the Wall through the agency of Natan Sharansky to designate an area at the Wall where women and men may pray freely without harrassment from either the Hareidi community or the police. Instead of women now being arrested for praying, wearing a Tallit or carrying a Torah, those who show violence towards them and verbally harrass them will be arrested. The new designated prayer area will be under the “Robinson’s Arch” just south of the Wall as we know it and will be available to mixed gender prayer or women’s prayer 24/7 with the same rights enjoyed by those at the traditional Kotel site. This is a major victory that was confirmed by Israeli courts. It must be allowed to stand without any political leaders (e.g. MK Naftali Bennett or Hareidi Knesset Members) thwarting it.
After reading Anat’s message below, please send this blog to anyone who cherishes freedom of religion, equal rights for women and gender inclusivity in prayer in Israel.
Be certain to include your own email address in the petition you sign. Many thanks.
Click here to email Minister Bennett – http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/50494/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=10791
Dear John ,
Last Friday was a historic day at the Western Wall. It was the first test of Judge Sobel’s ruling allowing women to pray at the Western Wall in a manner they see fit without police harassment. Despite strong opposition the ruling held and hundreds of women prayed with their tallitot, tefillin, and in a strong full voice. The women who came out that day should be commended for their courage.
We entered the plaza to the sounds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox men screaming insults and throwing garbage. The difference this week was that instead of the police dragging women off in handcuffs they made a barrier of blue uniforms holding back a sea of men trying to fall upon us. The angry crowd could not drown out our songs or joy at this victory.
Friday was an important step forwards in the process of making the Western Wall an inclusive home for all Jews. The court ruling, along with the Sharansky plan to create a third and equal section of the Western Wall for egalitarian prayer, is the correct formula for respecting the rights and feelings of all Jews. As I wrote last week, this process needs the support of us all.
A few thousand screaming Haredi Jews do not represent the majority view on this issue anymore. A week before this Friday’s Rosh Chodesh service, a poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute showed that, for the first time, a majority of Israelis support women’s right to pray at the Kotel as they see fit. We are on the side of the law and of Israeli, and world opinion. A recent Yediot Ahronot survey (Israel’s largest daily newspaper) showed Women of the Wall enjoy over 67% support from the Israeli public.
The new Diaspora and Religious Services Minister, Naftali Bennett from the Bayit haYehudi party, began his tenure with a promise of new politics. In spite of this promise he is now planning to impose more regulations against women praying at the Wall. He is threatening unilateral actions that would all but stop the Sharanksy process and reverse the Sobel ruling.
I need your help: we need to make it clear that stopping or even slowing down the process of respecting women’s right to pray at the Wall will be met with a tidal wave of opposition from Jews all over the world. Click here to write Minister Bennett directly, and when you have finished please forward the link to as many of your friends and family as possible.
Minster Bennett thinks he can just turn the clock backwards, but we need to show him that it will not work. The majority of world Jewry will not accept the old status quo. Together we can ensure equality at the Kotel
Executive Director, IRAC