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December 22, 2014 / 30 Kislev, 5775
 
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Women of the Kotel Rev Up the Provocation with a Sefer Torah

It's Revolutionary techniques 101: every time you reach a goal – start looking for the next one.
The WOW's Anat Hoffman holding a torah scroll in confrontation with police on July 12, 2010.

The WOW's Anat Hoffman holding a torah scroll in confrontation with police on July 12, 2010.
Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/FLASh90

It’s starting again, like it does every month, for the Women of the Kotel – can you feel the excitement? “Rosh Hodesh Av at the Kotel 2013″ is coming, says their email invitation (mind you, it’s not Av, 5773—too complicated), July 8, at 7:00 AM.

The month of Av, when two temples were burned down to the ground – how very appropriate.

If you would like to attend Rosh Hodesh Av Prayers at the Kotel with Women of the Wall and receive security updates, please fill out the form below and we will be in touch.

If you wish to sign up for the free minibus to the Kotel from Gan Hapa’amon, use the check box below.

We want to do our utmost to ensure everyone a safe and meaningful prayer at the Kotel.

Well, not everyone, of course, because, judging by last months complaints from non-WOW Jerusalemites, public bus service to the Kotel that goes through Haredi neighborhoods will be suspended until mid-day. It won’t be official, it would just be a quiet arrangement between cops and the bus company—allegedly.

Now the scoop, which should send a thrill through the delicate spines of all the WOW ladies: “Women of the Wall gear up for the next struggle: Reading Torah at the Kotel.

It’s Revolutionary techniques 101: every time you reach a goal – start looking for the next one. A revolution that runs out of provocative goals to achieve might as well fold up the barricades and go home.

Also, a revolution that stops in its tracks won’t be doing so good on the fund raising front. Ya gotta remember the bottom line.

So, after receiving permission from two lower courts to pray while clad in talitot and teffilin by the Kotel, men and women together, and after it became clear that neither the police nor the AG had the stomach for an appeal to the high court, you’d think the WOW would rejoice and give thanks to their Father or Mother in Heaven and sing out a great Rosh Chodesh Hallelujah.

No such luck. Now they need to unfold a Torah scroll out there, in the open air by the Kotel, and endow everyone in the plaza with their lovely voices.

Thank God, the Rosh Chodesh reading is relatively short. The predictable Haredi screaming will eventually die down, the WOW will once again appear victorious compared to those uncouth haters. So, you understand why it is absolutely essential that, after all these many months of not reading the Torah in the open, now it must be done.

They wrote a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and are urging their supporters to send a copy to him:

Shalom, It is with great respect and love for the State of Israel that we write today. The lack of freedom for women at the Western Wall simply cannot continue. Women in Israel deserve full and equal rights, including freedom of religion and expression at the Western Wall. For 24 years Women of the Wall have prayed and struggled for their full freedom of religion at the Western Wall. The women have cooperated with police and the courts. Women of the Wall have been full partners in each of the government committees that have been appointed throughout the years, especially the most recent committees headed by Natan Sharansky and now, Tzvi Hauser. In April 2013, the District Court of Jerusalem reestablished the legality of women’s prayer at the Kotel in Judge Sobel’s decision that the prayer of Women of the Wall in no way violates the law or disturbs the peace. He declared that the local custom of the Western Wall should be defined by the most pluralist, inclusive terms. Yet despite the women’s cooperation and the court’s assurances, a regulation from July 2010 written by ultra-Orthodox Rabbi and Authority of the Western Wall and Holy Places Shmuel Rabinowitz, prohibits men and women from entering the Kotel Plaza with a torah, thus permanently denying all women access to a Torah Scroll. This regulation reminds Jews worldwide of the very dark days in Jewish history when we were forbidden to pray, read and study Torah. It is inconceivable that in 2013 in Israel Jewish women are refused access to the Torah at a public holy site in Israel. We ask that you intervene immediately to guarantee women from all over the world and Israel the full equal rights at the Western Wall. B’chavod Rav (With deep respect)…

In other words, this is a letter of complaint to the PM, about the ruling of one of his civil servants, the rabbi of the Kotel, who wouldn’t let them bring a Sefer Torah into the plaza. What they’re asking for is that the PM pick up the phone to his employee and order him to right away rescind his regulation. Otherwise…

Otherwise it would be just like those dark times in our history, when Jews were not allowed to pray, read and study the Torah.

If they were to raise their eyes from the wall right in front of them, to the other, higher plaza just 20 feet or so above their heads, they could be treated to the sight of a place where Jews right now, are not allowed not just to bring a Sefer Torah, but if they’re suspected of praying, immediately the cops are called in to grab them off the site.

The WOW have nothing to say about that. They see no similarity between their case, where they’ve twisted the arm of the law, with the glad hearted collaboration of two lower court judges – and the case of the complete prohibition on Jewish prayer by men, women and children on the Temple Mount.

Wanna’ do something subversive? Here’s what I did:

I went to their petition page, entered my personal data, and replaced their text with the highlighted text below. I also changed the subject to: Please Let Jews Pray on Temple Mount.

Mr. Prime Minister, please don’t allow patriotic Jews to be humiliated by the Arabs who rule the Temple Mount with your permission. Please let us pray there, in the areas that are halakhically permitted, and if need be please provide us with police protection as equal citizens of your country.

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About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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35 Responses to “Women of the Kotel Rev Up the Provocation with a Sefer Torah”

  1. Arie's Pragmatic Politics says:

    Woman wanting to be part of Judaism: BAD

  2. Liad Bar-El says:

    Jewish women are fusing at the Kotel.

  3. How could they do such a thing ?

  4. Anat describes herself as “devout reform,” whatever that means, and the reform leadership has declared that the Torah is not authoritative, so to them it’s nothing but a book with nice stories.

  5. Reading from a torah scroll in the women's section has been Women of the Wall's goal for 24 years now. The torah has been read in the men's section at the Kotel since 1967 regularly on Rosh Hodesh, on Shabbat, Hagim, public fast days and on Mondays and Thursdays. It's not exactly revolutionary nor provocative to read from our holy torah at the Kotel at 7:50am. Chill.

  6. Whatever a person has to say means NOTHING! Hashem LOVES the daughters HE created! PERIOD!! Torah or no Torah!

  7. Although all (male and female) were made in the image of The Almighty (blessed be He), Judaism focuses heavily on tradition and community. There are certain things that women are not required to do that men are required to do– in fact, women have such a great and important role in Judaism– and these women are not satisfied with that. It is my opinion that that none of us, male or female, get to just do what you want because we want to– in Judaism we must have community support and a reason for it that can be explained by Torah/Talmud. We see this often in the various communities– people doing what they want because it makes them feel special or set apart– when in fact in a world-wide community that is about togetherness (same prayers, same times to pray, etc.), setting ones self apart from community and tradition is the quickest way to find yourself on the outside looking in. I won’t condemn them (not my place to) however I won’t condone it either.

  8. Dan Silagi says:

    It was a "provocation" when Medgar Evars helped integrate Ole Miss. The White Citizens' Council was so provoked by Evars' actions, that one of them assassinated him, and got away with it for 50 years.

    Today, there are numerous statues erected in Evars' honor. In Mississippi.

    The Women of the Wall are "provoking" haredim by reading from the Torah, something which is an honor for all Jews to do, male and female. Too bad. Someday, there will be statues erected in Jerusalem commemorating their courageous stand.

    In order to make an omelet, you've gotta break a few eggs.

  9. Yori Yanover says:

    Dan Silagi · There really is a difference between the civil rights movement in Mississippi and the request that the women respect the sensitivities of another group and refrain from doing something which will upset them without a doubt. It's about manners, not oppression.

    By saying "too bad," you're not providing for a compromise, rather you take one side, and to hell with the other. I wonder if you would do the same thing in India — insist on having your steak in a public place, say, or setting up a barbecue in the main square of New Delhi. You wouldn't, because it's dangerous, and it's also very disrespectful. Even if you live there and pay taxes.

    There's such a thing as manners, for heaven's sake. manners even when you could cite a hundred cases in which the "other side" did not watch their manners. Respecting the needs of the other, some times at the expense of us getting our needs completely fulfilled — is that not part of any religious teaching?

  10. Dan Silagi says:

    In this sense that the KKK and the White Citizens' Councils were more violent than the haredim, yes. In the sense that Medgar Evars offended the sensibilities of the segs who wanted to keep Ole Miss lily-white no, the situation isn't just comparable, it's identical.

    Women should not be discriminated in any way against because they have two X chromosomes. There is NO room for compromise on this issue. None. Nada. Gar nicht.

    If there were a gal who could play MLB as well as Dick Butkus and Lawrence Taylor did, she should be starting in the NFL. Sure there'd be plenty of whining and whimpering from the big macho men, but eventually they'd accept it, just as they now accept female reporters in the locker rooms.

    As far as "manners" goes, this isn't about "manners," it's about equal rights. Moreover, by throwing chairs and hot coffee and other stuff at these women, these piouser-than-thou "Jews" sure displayed their best behavior, didn't they? Likewise those who stone cars because their drivers don't observe THEIR Shabbat.

    Your comparison is totally disingenuous, although the reference to sacred cows is less so. Moreover, if Hindus and Muslims want to be intolerant, I'm of neither religion. I'm Jewish, and the idea that women can't worship the way men do at the Kotel, which is not Haredi but belongs to ALL Jews, is entirely repugnant to me, as it is to most Jews.

  11. Bear Klein says:

    Tolerance is a virtue. Love of fellow Jews even if different than you in some way is certainly virtuous. We get ahead by accepting each other not by tearing each other down.

  12. Brian Kent says:

    I think African Americans would be very insulted by those racist comments. They have their blood shed all over the South fighting for the right to vote, equal treatment at lunch counters and the right to be educated like any other human being. Women in Israel have those rights and always did. None has ever been killed in their quest to change the Jewish religion. You cheapen the blood of Dr.King and Medgar Evars as well as the other heroes of the Civil Rights Era by comparing the Women of the Wall to people who were lynched! You make their martydom meaningless. No, Mr.Silagi your comparison is the one which is totally disingenuous and it is offensive and an affront to our African American brothers and sisters.

  13. There is also freedom of religion Matthew. Not every Jewish person believes in the Torah. In fact most Israeli Jews do not. After the Holocaust many Jews affected by it have lost their faith in a God. It is not your place to condemn or condone. It is a personal matter and should be kept apart from a secular government.

  14. Yosef Meir says:

    To Yoni Yanover:

    I have tried to rally Jews on the Har HaBayit issue for many years with little success. I am trying once more to organize a 10,000 signature petition in time for 9 Ba’av and I need help. In 2 years the petition has only grown 1,260 which is beyond disgraceful. Who will help push this forward???
    http://www.atzuma.co.il/alh
    The petition is in Hebrew and English with signing instructions for English speakers.

  15. Arie's Pragmatic Politics says:

    I do believe in freedom of comment, even by the inane.

  16. Arie's Pragmatic Politics says:

    Let’s turn the Kotel over to the Ottomans for "maintenance" and let them dispense proper judgement on these scandalous women.

  17. Ahron Ebert says:

    Is it ok for Jews for Jesus to pray at the Wall with a crucifix?

  18. Ahron Ebert says:

    Is it ok for Jews for Jesus to pray at the Wall with a crucifix?

  19. Susan Stone says:

    Arie is an idiotic moron!

  20. Susan Stone says:

    A shame to the tribe.

  21. freedom of worship or free expression of ones belief must be respected and granted to everyone in a truly domocratic country. why, only orthodox know how to read the Torah? are they only have the EXCLUSIVE right to read God's word? who made this presumptous people to have the only right to have access to God? Who owns God, by the way? were the ancient Israelites the exclusive pople of God, or God were the exclusive God or owned by the ancient Israelites?

  22. Arie's Pragmatic Politics says:

    Ahron Ebert A belief in a "Jesus" by definition makes you a Christian. The WoW are JEWS in every respect! Your equation is non-sensical

  23. Arie's Pragmatic Politics says:

    Ahron: Take your meds. Until you do you shouldn't comment. You are pulling a Yanover and comparing Jewish women to Christians

  24. They were told they can hold their services by the Kotel HaKaton. That obviously isn't good enough for them. They are like the Tzadokim in the time of the Bais Hamikdash. They only want to see how far they can push their agenda. Shame on them!

  25. Yori Yanover says:

    Diosdado Sasil · You are repeating an un-truth. There are three sections at the Kotel, one for men, one for women, and one for mixed. The Women of the Kotel now want to go an extra step and perform what's considered a provocative act by many Jews — have a woman read aloud in public from the Torah. It's not a case of discrimination but a case of intolerance and lack of sensitivity on the part of the women.

  26. Yori Yanover says:

    Ahron Ebert · If the crucifix is a medallion on their neck — no problem. If they do a whole passion play, carrying Jesus on the cross — probably not. But they won't dream of doing it, because, they have better manners than the WOW.

  27. Stuart Kaufman says:

    If one does as you suggest, it will be delivered with all the other petition,,and used as proof of support for them. No one will distinguish the language about the Temple Mount from their message. I note that he mst prominent thing on their web page is fund raising. This is the Reform Movement trying to sneak their noses under the tent. They should be ignored and treated with contempt.

  28. Dan Silagi says:

    There were "separate but equal water fountains" in the old South, too.

    Yes, what WOW is doing is provactive; that's the idea. But the intolerant ones here aren't the women of WOW, but the frumbags, who need to get their butts out of the 18th century and move into the 21st.

  29. Lisa Michelle says:

    A stunning contrast!

  30. Dan Silagi says:

    I'm married to an African American woman, Brian, and my wife has no problem whatsoever with my comparison of the Women of the Wall to those who stood up for civil rights in the South. Most civil rights workers didn't get killed, or beaten up. But most were cussed at, spat upon, and had stuff thrown at them, which is what the Women of the Wall endured.

  31. Brian Kent says:

    Dan Silagi Read about it in books and I don't remember it.

  32. Dan Silagi says:

    I'm older than you. I was there.

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