Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90
From the left: Anat Hoffman, MK Stav Shaffir MK Tamar Zandberg, and Leslie Sachs wearing prayer shawls at the Western Wall, March 12, 2013.

MKs Stav Shafir (Labor), Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) and Michal Rozin (Meretz) participated Tuesday morning in the Rosh Chodesh prayer of Women of the Wall. All three, like the rest of the 300 women present, donned prayer shawls, in violation of a 2003 Supreme Court’s ruling.

This time, however, due to the presence of three legislators, police refrained from arresting anyone. The group noted that this was the first time in 22 months in which none of them ended up in jail.


The Kotel Police did try at first to prevent MK Shafir from entering the plaza, but she insisted on her right to participate in prayer and on wearing a prayer shawl.

This incident was very similar to the attempt, one week ago, of MK Moshe Feiglin to enter the Dome of the Rock, armed with his own MK papers.

Perhaps it is high time that the two groups, the Temple Mount Loyalists and the Women of the Wall combine their efforts…

After the prayer service, MK Shafir said: “They tried to prevent us from entering the Western Wall plaza, claiming we are disturbing the public order, but there is nothing that 100 women armed with tallitot can’t do. Surrounded by male and female police, against the shouting and shofar blowing of Haredi men across the fence – we stood in front of the Kotel and said our prayer.”

If a future prime minister would be looking for a new Minister of Religious Services, perhaps MK Shafir, leader of the social protests of the summer of 2011, would find her true calling there.

“I normally do not wear a tallit, but I feel a duty and a great privilege to stand here and make sure that every Jew in the world can pray as they wish,” MK Shafir stated. “I cannot be that one faction of Judaism take possession of a place which is sacred to all the Jew of the world. While there are genuine disagreements between the different streams of Judaism over the correct way to worship God, we must remember that there’s more uniting than dividing us, and the least we can do is let everyone, male and female, pray to God as they best understand.”

Women of the Wall Chair Anat Hoffman said, with more than a little melodramatic flair: “Today we took one more step in our struggle to liberate the Kotel. Thanks to the members of Knesset, we prayed today with tallit and tefillin, an act which for the last 22 months has carried with it the threat of arrest. We must keep up the pressure to end the oppression of women at the Kotel, to see a day soon when we read Torah in peace at the Kotel.”

Shira Pruce, the organization’s director of public relations, was a bit more prosaic in describing the day’s event, although she, too, sounded elated. Speaking to the Jewish Press, Pruce insisted that the Women of the Wall’s end goal is not to create a new Jewish movement, or promote any particular stream of Judaism.

“There were a lot more Israeli Orthodox women than usual,” she said, referring to the attendance at the Rosh Chodesh ceremony. “Maybe up to 30 percent. I was really surprised. I think in the last few months we’ve started attracting Modern Orthodox women.”

The majority of women, though, were Conservative and Reform.

There were more than the usual number of Haredi women on hand this time, whom, Spruce thought, were there in response to the group’s presence.

“They were screaming and yelling and insulting,” she described, suggesting “there was no doubt” that they came just to disturb the group’s prayer.

On Monday, Women of the Wall announced its concern after Haredi Jerusalem had been plastered with “pashkevilim” calling on Haredim to come in droves to protest the Kotel prayers. But, according to Pruce, “the pashkevilim did not have the desired effect. Maybe we don’t bother the average Haredi person as much as one might think or the government might fear.”

And that’s an expression of hope if I ever heard one.



  1. Meretz is an ANTI-RELIGIOUS party and has been for many years. These Meretz MKs are NOT looking for freedom of religion but rather from freedom FROM religion. These NON-ORTHODOX women (and don't let anyone tell you otherwise) are perfectly free to perform any kind of pseudo-religious rites at Robinson's Arch, another part of the Western Wall, which has been assigned to Conservative, Reform and others for their services. However, Anat Hoffman wants to annoy ORTHODOX Jews, who she has publicly sworn to oust from the Kotel. She's not shy about saying so, either. They wouldn't DARE try this antic up on the Temple Mount, on the other side of the Western Wall because that would offend the Islamists, who are their close allies. And MK Feiglin was forcibly removed from the Temple Mount because of Islamic sensitivities, but Jewish sensitivities obviously don't count. This stunt is a dishonest publicity trick. Don't fall for it.

  2. I would not be surprised if the Women of the Wall put up those Pashkevilin themselves – I agree, however, that the government should stay out of religion and nobody should ever be arrested for praying in their own way, but that is because I do not believe in a Jewish State, and I feel that Israel can be a State of Jews without being a Jewish State. I think if there were a free-market approach to religion in Israel, as opposed to the current socialized religion under the office of the Chief Rabbinate, a lot more people would be religious, because the government would not be shoving it down their throat. I am not saying to do away with the Rabbinate, but I think it should be privatized like the other badatzim around Eretz Yisrael. Those who call themselves Haredim but yell and scream at these women should realize that we are in Galus. The State of Israel is also a Galus. We Haredim are supposed to be quiet and patiently wait for Moshiach to come, not yell and scream, just mind our own business and hope that we make a Kiddush Hashem that might influence people to turn around. We have to live our own lives and make sure that our own house is in order before we can think of reproving those who are so far away from our way that they will not understand. Also, look at the Navi, Malachi 1:11 tells us that Hashem accepts the avodah zarah of goyim as if they were worshiping Him, because they do not know any better, while He does not always accept our avodah if we are not treating each other correctly, because we should know better, because we have His True Torah. Some of these women do not know any better, and I would imagine if Hashem accepts actual Avodah Zarah as a "minchah tehorah", then He would accept these prayers as well, at least among those who are ignorant among them as to why they are violating some issur or minhag they never learned about. If we want them to stop doing these things, we have to approach with love, educating in a loving way, not yelling and shouting. B"H not too many of my Haredi brothers took their bait, and it was relatively quiet. We can be certain that things will get better in the future.

  3. Spoken like a true Jew in exile. Having lived here over the past year — after being away for 37 years — I cannot tell you how much better it is to be living in a Jewish State. Now, we all harbor some galut inside ourselves, which explains the terrible rifts among us. But tehre's no Torah like Eretz Israel Torah, and no air and light and fragrance like in Eretz Israel.

    And if you know Geula and Meah Shearim, and still think some woman from Tel Aviv can hang pashkevilim on the walls in the streets there — you are entirely detached from reality as we know it.

  4. Please see our website and Facebook page where you can get more information about our group. You will understand that we truly wish to have a spiritual prayer service at the Kotel. No one accuses the men who pray at the kotel of not having pure intentions, why hold us women to a different standard?

  5. Any woman can pray at the Kotel at the woman's section. It is YOU and your ilk who have made it into an issue by provocating both the men and most of the women in your section. Why is it so difficult for you women to pray like everyone else in that section?

  6. Yori my friend and brother, pious Jews have lived in Eretz Yisrael and learned Torah there, and basked in its holiness, air, light, and fragrance, long before the Zionist State existed, and they will still be there long after it is gone. The holiness of Eretz Yisrael has nothing to do with who has sovereignty over it. It was "Artzeinu" under the British, it was "Artzeinu" under the Ottomans, it is still "Artzeinu" under the current regime. But the most important thing is peace and pikuach nefesh. We Jews can disagree with each other but we do not need to fight. Let's focus on what we have in common and not what divides us.

  7. No, women can not pray in the usual orthodox manner at the kotel, with a minyan, behind a mechitzah. My rav took a group of day school students from America to the kotel and tried to have an ordinary orthodox friday night service, led by a man, with women to the right of the mechitzah and men to the left. Guys dressed as charedim pelted them with stones. And the police did nothing. Ironically the only decent halachic argument against women's prayer groups is that everybody should pray with a minyan.

  8. Charlie — The halachic views across the board are that the issue is Tzniut. There's also mention of woman wearing men's clothing. Even more so with wearing tefillin in public, which involve exposing one's arm and hair. One can say that she doesn't care about it, but to state as you do that halacha does not prohibit it — in private for sure it's ok, but in public it's a very big problem.

  9. Charlie — The halachic views across the board are that the issue is Tzniut. There's also mention of woman wearing men's clothing. Even more so with wearing tefillin in public, which involve exposing one's arm and hair. One can say that she doesn't care about it, but to state as you do that halacha does not prohibit it — in private for sure it's ok, but in public it's a very big problem.

  10. Rabbi Joseph Kolakowski — Of course you're right, and yet, with the Zionist revolution, good and bad, the land has opened herself to us as she hadn't done in 2000 years, just as the verses in Deuteronomy promised, and from a desert in the 19th century (read Mark Twain) it agreed to become a blooming garden. I live in the Sharon area which is just miles and miles and miles of blosoming orchards and glistening fields of wheat and vegetables. Only northern California comes near this wealth of vegetation and plenty.

  11. Charlie Hall — that's when religion becomes real estate. Which is why I'm reporting on this story regularly, not because I support women's wearing talit and tefillin in public — I'm against it, but because I empathize with what I see as their earnest yearning to come close to the Divine.

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