The Women of the Wall (WoW, having won their fight to pray in their own minyan complete with a tallis and tefillin, have escalated their campaign against orthodox Jewish tradition by announcing plans to read from a Torah scroll at prayers at the Western Wall on Monday.
Several leading Haredi rabbis called on thousands of Haredi men to gather for a mass prayer opposite Women of the Wall. Last month, some of them hurling objects at the women and jeered at them.
The Women of the Wall gather at the beginning of every Jewish month for a women’s Rosh Chodesh service at the Western Wall. The new month of Tammuz falls on the Sabbath and Sunday this week, and the WoW have put off their “Rosh Chodesh” to Monday, one of two regular weekdays when the Torah is read at prayers services.
Their previous attempts to bring a Torah scroll into the Western Wall area prayer area, in violation of local tradition, created a media sensation, with photographs around the world showing police struggling with a woman holding a holy Torah scroll.
The scene played into the hands of the WoW, winning sympathy in the Diaspora from both non-Jews and Jews, mostly but not exclusively those from the Reform and Conservative movements.
In Jewish tradition, women have no obligation to pray in a minyan, and never with a tallis and tefillin, which are part of the men’s obligations. The women want “equality” although Jewish law does not consider men and women unequal because of different obligations for each sex.
The court ruling allowing the Women of the Wall to pray with a tallis and tefillin at the Wall, in a separate women’s section, does not preclude their using a Torah scroll, but the group decided not to do so last month in order not to raise tension beyond the point of containment, on both sides of the issue.
“We could have done it last month, but [Religious Services Minister Naftali] Bennett asked us to make a certain compromises and we agreed for one month to show our good will,” Lesley Sachs, the group’s director, told JTA Wednesday. “There was no question we would bring it this month. Without it, it’s not a full service.”
Bennett met with Women of the Wall representatives Wednesday in what Sachs called a “very productive meeting.”
Haredi leaders are encouraging thousands to appear n protest but without violence. The Haredi news site Kikar HaShabbat quoted Haredi Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Yossi Deutsch, as saying, “Many will come, according to the instruction of great rabbis, to sanctify the name of heaven and prove that we will not surrender in the battle over the holiness of the Western Wall.”
JTA contributed to this report.