Reclaim and Liberate the Kotel!
In June 1967 at the end of the Six Day War, Israeli soldiers recaptured occupied Jerusalem, liberating the Western Wall (Kotel) and allowing Jews free access and freedom of religious practice at the Kotel for the first time since the destruction of the Second Temple, in 70 CE. This moment, when the soldiers came to weep and celebrate the liberation of the holy site, was captured in an historic and now famous picture, Paratroopers at the Western Wall, by photographer David Rubinger.
It was only after the 1967 liberation of Jerusalem that the Ministry of Religious Affairs was granted sole authority to supervise Jewish holy sites in Israel and that the Western Wall began to be run and thus regarded as an Orthodox Synagogue. It was only after this that a mehitza, a partition separating men and women, was erected at the Kotel and that other regulations limiting women’s access and participation in prayer at the holy site were created and enforced.
In 1988, a group of women from multiple Jewish denominations gathered for a women’s prayer service at the holy site and ever since, Women of the Wall have met at the Kotel to pray together at the beginning of each new Jewish month. For over 23 years, Women of the Wall have endured threats, harassment, physical and verbal abuse, tear gas, detainment and arrests while maintaining women’s right to practice Judaism as they see fit at the Kotel. As the Ultra-Orthodox control of the Kotel becomes more and more extreme and exclusive, Women of the Wall continue to believe that with mounting support in Israel and internationally, the Kotel will once again be liberated for all of the Jewish people to visit and worship freely.
In June 2012, when David Rubinger, now 88 years old, agreed enthusiastically to photograph our leaders in tallitot with the Torah, we were honored to reenact the historic moment of the liberation of the Kotel for the photographer who captured it originally. This new Rubinger photograph represents the fight for all women’s religious freedom at the Kotel.
Now is your chance to join us! Reclaim the Kotel for yourself and help liberate it for all Jews around the world in our new campaign!
What to do: Examine the two Rubinger original photographs and then stage your own liberation picture! Gather a few women from your family or community and create your own “Western Wall”, at your synagogue, in your home or in nature. Capture the moment with a digital camera or with your cell phone camera. In your small group of women, come up with a one or two sentence answer to the question: What does the Kotel mean to me? If you have been to the holy site, close your eyes, picture it, and see what thoughts and emotions come up. If you have yet to visit, express what it would mean to you to see it for the first time.
Do your part to Reclaim and Liberate the Kotel Now!
In the form below, upload your picture and send us a short message: What the Kotel means to me. Your pictures and messages will be displayed on our website and exhibited in Israel and perhaps even abroad!